News from the courts/agencies

Thursday, May 24, 2018
SJC announces amendments to Rules of Civil Procedure regarding credit card debts; Trial Court issues new child support guidelines

SJC announces amendments to Rules of Civil Procedure regarding credit card debts

The justices of the Supreme Judicial Court recently announced two new rules of civil procedure related to civil actions against individuals for money damages arising from credit card debt.

The SJC Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure, chaired by attorney Nelson G. Apjohn, proposed the two new rules intended to address abuses that may arise in debt collection cases, including poorly documented debts, suits commenced after the expiration of the statute of limitations, and lack of notice to defendants. New Rule 8.1 requires a plaintiff to file with a complaint in these cases documentation regarding the debt; to verify the defendant’s address prior to commencement of the action; and to certify that the statute of limitations has not expired. 

New Rule 55.1 requires an affidavit that the documentation required by Rule 8.1 has been provided and that the plaintiff is entitled to judgment in the amount claimed; without such documentation a default or default judgment shall not enter. It also requires reverification of the defendant’s address under specified circumstances prior to entry of a default judgment. The new rules become effective on Jan. 1, 2019.

The Standing Advisory Committee assists the court in reviewing and recommending amendments to the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure and the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure. Members include judges, court clerks, practicing lawyers and law professors.

The new rules are available for viewing on the court system's website here.

Trial Court issues new child support guidelines 

Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey recently announced the promulgation of amended child support guidelines and guidelines worksheet, which take effect on June 15, 2018. These amendments are a result of a Trial Court review conducted after issues were raised regarding the application of the adjustment factors for children 18 years of age or older, and the adjustment for child care, health care coverage, and dental/vision insurance costs when parents share financial responsibility and parenting time approximately equally.  
 
The June 2018 amendments eliminate counterintuitive outcomes in support orders for four or five children, at least one being 18 years of age or older. The age adjustments in the September 2017 Table B were based on applying the 25 percent discount listed in the guidelines in equal proportion to the number of children 18 years of age or older. The age adjustment percentages in the June 2018 Table C are based on applying the 25 percent discount to the oldest children last. That is, the 25 percent discount is applied only to the increases in child support for additional children, rather than to the overall amount of support. Children 18 years of age or older are accounted for last in this calculation to fully preserve the increases in child support for additional younger children. Because of the change in the application of the adjustment, some child support orders will increase if there is at least one child 18 years of age or older.
 
The redesigned worksheet allows for one worksheet to be used regardless of whether the parenting plan is shared, split, or approximately two-thirds and one-third. It is no longer necessary to use multiple worksheets to determine the child support amount when there are shared or split parenting plans.  
 
The June 2018 amendments do not address the 2018/2019 changes to the federal tax code with regard to alimony and dependency exemptions. These will be examined by the next task force.
 
The amended guidelines and the fillable worksheet, along with a memo from an economic consultant that explains the adjustment factors in detail, were posted on mass.gov on May 22.