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Hoegen v. Hoegen, Case Involving Father's Child Support Obligation

Hoegen v. Hoegen, Case Involving Father's Child Support Obligation

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 Barach Law Group LLC today for help from our Framingham family law attorney.

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