On January 22, 2016, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals issued a decision
vacating a lower court judgment on a complaint for modification which
increased the father’s child support obligation, but excluded the
father’s income from restricted stock units (RSU).
See Hoegen v. Hoegen, Lawyers Weekly No. 11-009-16.
After the lower court judgment was issued, the mother appealed the judgment,
arguing that the RSU income should be included in the child support calculation.
The father argues that in a provision of the separation agreement, which
independently survived the divorce judgment, the mother waived interest
in the RSU income.
The Court delves into the Child Support Guidelines, stating that the income
definition section does not specifically list RSU income but holds an
umbrella provision at the end of the list that the RSU income could fall
under. The Court also discusses the policy behind the guidelines and highlights
that “dependent children shall be maintained as completely as possible
from the resources of their parents . . . .” The lower court judge
failed to make findings as to why the RSU income should have been excluded
from the child support calculations, which the Appeals Court determined
was an error.
Regarding the waiver of interest in the RSU income in the parties’
separation agreement, the Court looks to the fact that the issue at hand involves
child support calculations. Based on the policy considerations listed above, the Court determined
that “the waiver could not operate to waive [the] children’s
right to child support from [the RSU] income.” The Court vacated
the judgment and remanded the matter to the Probate and Family Court to
recalculate child support including the RSU income. The lesson is that
income will continually be viewed as broadly for the purpose of child
support calculations in Massachusetts.
If you need assistance with child support representation,
call Saponaro Barach Bingham LLP today for help from our Wellesley family law attorney.