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Massachusetts Child Support

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts ensures that both parents, if they are capable of working, provide financial support to their children. To ensure that this is accomplished fairly, the Commonwealth of Mass Administrative Office of the Trial Court, members of the bar, developed the Child Support Guidelines and Child Support Guidelines Worksheet in recognition of the priority of the interests of children of the Commonwealth. These guidelines are usually strictly adhered to by the Justices of the Probate Court in Boston and every where else in MA. The guidelines encourage joint parental responsibility in proportion to, or as a percentage of income.

The Child Support Guidelines for Massachusetts take into consideration the Gross Income (before taxes) from all sources for both parties and factors in the number of children (up to 5) in the family. In most instances, the guidelines allow deductions from the gross Income the costs associated with child care, health insurance, dental/vision, and other obligations such as child support and alimony from prior marriages.

For divorces involving children, it is very important early on for the custodial parent to file a motion for temporary orders to obtain a temporary child support order from the non-custodial parent to ensure that the children are taken care of financially while going through the divorce process. The court will decide with the aid of the child support guidelines and each parties financial statements what the financial obligations will be.

There are some situations where the custodial parent either doesn't work or just doesn't earn as much as the non-custodial parent and he/she may be unable to afford the mortgage, health insurance, private school or day care expenses even with a child support order in place. In those situations the court may order additional financial relief, including partial payment of the mortgage, beyond the child support order.

The new child support guidelines are utilized for all temporary orders and judgements for current child support orders entered after 1/1/2009. Existing child support orders and judgements less than 3 years old shall not be modified unless the income of one or both parties have changed or other new circumstances warrant modification.

It is important to note that the payor spouse cannot deduct child support payments from his or her income taxes. The custodial parent that receives child support payments isn't required to pay taxes. The only exception to this rule is if both sides agree and the court accepts the reduction of child support in favor of alimony to provide the paying spouse a greater tax benefit.

Alimony payments are tax deductable to the payor and taxable to the payee. It is important to consult with your tax advisor to find out the latest tax laws affecting both child support and alimony before taking any deductions as tax laws do change.

Calculating Your Child Support Obligations
The Child Support Guidelines Worksheet can be used to calculate the minimum presumptive amount of child support to be ordered by the court whether the parents of the children are married or unmarried.

The Child Support Worksheet was designed for parties with a combined gross income level not to exceed $250,000 per year. In cases where income exceeds this limit, the court should consider the award of the support at the $250,000 level as the minimum presumptive order. Any income above this amount may be a source for alimony consideration.

You can expect to receive child support payments until the child(ren) reach the age of 18 or older if they are still attending high school or are principally dependent on the custodial parent. If your child(ren) are attending college, child support will continue until the age of 23.

A Child Support order may be modified by going to court under certain circumstances such as a material change in circumstances, or an increase or decrease in income. Other circumstances may include changes in health insurance premiums or an existing child support order that is at least 3 years old.

The child support guidelines are generally based upon the child(ren) having a primary residence with one parent and spending one third of the time with the other parent.

In cases where two parents share approximately equally, the financial responsibility and parenting time for the child(ren), the child support shall be determined by calculating the child support guidelines twice, first with one parent as the recipient, and second with the other parent as the recipient. The difference in the calculations shall be paid to the parent with the lower weekly support amount.

Child Support Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Answers

1.
Do you have to report overtime income in the new 2009 Massachusetts child support guidelines worksheet (Calculator)?

Answer: When reporting gross income, you have to include income from all sources regardless of whether the income is recognized by the Internal Revenue Code or reported to the IRS, State Department of Revenue, or other taxing authority. If you have a history of overtime income prior to the child support order, you are required to list the income. In certain situations, there are arguments that can be made to exclude overtime income for the purpose of determining your child support payment obligation.

2.
Do you have to report income from part time or secondary jobs for purposes of determining your Massachusetts child support financial obligations?

Answer: When reporting gross income, you have to include income from all sources regardless of whether the income is recognized by the Internal Revenue Code or reported to the IRS, State Department of Revenue, or other taxing authority. If you have a history of earning income from part time or secondary jobs prior to the child support order, you are required to list the income. In certain situations, there are arguments that can be made to exclude part-time or secondary job income for the purpose of determining your child support payment obligation.

3.
If I get a part time or second job after the child support order, can the custodial parent apply for a Massachusetts child support modification to increase the child support order?

Answer: The custodial parent can take you to court for a modification of child support. It doesn't mean that they will prevail in court. The new 2009 child support guidelines specifically mentions that secondary job or overtime income should not be considered in a future support order.

4. Do you have to report commissions, tips, severance pay, royalties, bonuses, lottery or gambling winnings, investment interest and dividends on the new 2009 Massachusetts child support guidelines worksheet (Calculator)?

Answer: Yes! When completing the child support guidelines worksheet (Calculator), you must include all sources of income including, but not limited too commissions, tips, severance pay, royalties, bonuses, lottery or gambling winnings, and investment interest and dividends, to name a few.

5.
Do you have to report income and distributions from trusts when completing the new 2009 Massachusetts child support guidelines worksheet (Calculator)?

Answer: Yes! When calculating your gross income, you must include all sources of income including, but not limited too income and distributions from trusts.
Child Support Modification Video


For a detailed explanation of the Child Support Worksheet, please refer to the Child Support Guidelines. I've provided below a summary of some key factors that are considered in setting the Child Support order.

Other Spousal & Child Support Orders
The amount paid to support a former spouse or children not covered by this order shall be deducted from your gross income.

Credit for Support Obligations
The new 2009 Child Support Guidelines Worksheet Calculator now provides credit to either parent that pays for child care, health insurance, dental/vision, and other support obligation costs by allowing them to deduct the amount from their gross income before the formula is applied to determine the child support order as long as those expenses are reasonable.

Parents Unemployed or Underemployed
For those parents that are capable of working but chose to remain unemployed or underemployed, the courts should consider potential earnings capacity rather than actual earnings in making its order.

Income from Overtime or 2nd Jobs
After a child support order is entered, a payor or recipient can earn extra income by working overtime or obtain a second job and the court should not consider this income in future support orders.

Designating Child Support as Alimony
Child support is non-deductible by the payor and non-taxable to the recipient. The court will consider child support in whole or in part as alimony provided the after-tax support received by the recipient is not diminished. It is the responsibility of the parties to present the tax consequences of proposed orders to the court

Other Child Related Expenses
If the parents can afford other child related expenses, the court may allocate costs to the parties on a case-by-case basis for extra-curricular activities, private school, post-secondary education, or summer camps if it is in the best interests of the children.

Guideline Deviation
The Court, or the parties by agreement approved by the Court, may deviate from the guidelines and overcome the presumptive application of the guidelines provided the Court enters specific written findings stating:

1. the amount of the order that would result from application of the guidelines;
2. that the guidelines amount would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances
3. the specific facts of the case which justify departure from the guidelines; and
4. that such departure is consistent with the best interests of the child.

Circumstances which may support deviation include, but are not limited to the following:

  • the parties agree and the Court approves their agreement;
  • a child has special needs or aptitudes;
  • a child has extraordinary medical or other expenses;
  • application of the guidelines, particularly low income earners, leaves a party without the ability to self support;
  • Payor is incarcerated, is likely to remain incarcerated for an additional 3 years and has insufficient financial resources to pay support;
  • application of the guidelines would result in a gross disparity in standard of living between the two households such that one household is left with an unreasonably low percentage of the combined available income;
  • a parent has extraordinary medical expenses;
  • a parent has extraordinary travel or other expenses related to parenting;
  • application of the guidelines may adversely impact reunification of a parent and child where the child has been temporary removed from the household based upon allegations of neglect; or
  • absent deviation, application of the guidelines would lead to an order that is unjust, inappropriate or not in the best interests of the child, considering the principles of these guidelines.

Massachusetts Child Support Statute: Mass General Laws Ch. 208, sec 32

Child Support Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQ ) and Answers

6. Can you deduct your child care expenses in the new 2009 Massachusetts child support guidelines worksheet?

Answer: In general, the party that pays for the child care costs is allowed to deduct it from their gross income so long as its reasonable.

7.
Does the new 2009 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines apply to families with more than 5 children?

Answer: Yes! If you have more than 5 children, the court order should be at least the amount ordered for 5 children.

8.
Do you have to count business expense reimbursements towards your income for purposes of calculating your Massachusetts child support payments?

Answer: Expense reimbursements may be included as income if such payments are significant and reduce personal living expenses.

9.
At what age does Massachusetts Child Support terminate or end?

Answer: Child support continues from through age 18 and children over 18 as long as they are still attending high school or until your child turns 21 so long as they are principally dependent on the custodial parent. If your children go to college, child support will continue until they graduate or turn 23, whichever comes first.

10.
How is the Massachusetts Weekly,Monthly, or Yearly child support amount (financial obligation) determined?

Answer: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Administrative Office of the Trial Court developed the Massachusetts child support guidelines and worksheet for use by the justices of the Trial Court to help determine what the financial obligation is for each parent in the support of their children. One of the principles in the development of the guidelines is to encourage joint parental responsibility for child support in proportion to, or as a percentage of, income.

11.
For Self-Employed business owners, does the court in Massachusetts look at gross receipts or net income for purposes of determining your child support obligations?

Answer: Self employed business owners are allowed to take gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income to help determine their gross income for purposes of determining their child support financial obligations.

Our Boston lawyers and attorneys are experienced in all areas of child support and modification laws. Call attorney Robyn A. Briatico at 617-387-6800 to schedule your free 20 minute phone consult.

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