MA Child Support FAQ's


What percentage of your income do you have to pay in child support?
Child support is not calculated according to an exact percentage of income. Rather, it’s determined by the MA Child Support Guidelines and its Calculation. Generally, the court considers the parties’ parenting times, which can fall anywhere on a spectrum of no time at all for one parent to approximately shared parenting time.

Once the parenting time is determined, the following numbers are entered into the calculation: the gross incomes of the parties and any allowed deductions, including health, dental and vision insurance, child care costs, and other support obligations (e.g. support for other children, previous alimony obligation). The resulting number is the presumed child support amount.

How does MA calculate child support?
MA calculates child support using the MA Child Support Guidelines in conjunction with the MA Child Support Worksheet. The Guidelines provide the rules, and the worksheet is the tool used to perform the calculation. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/child-support-guidelines#2018-guidelines,-forms,-and-information-

How much can you get for child support for 2 kids?
The amount of child support you receive for 2 kids depends on a number of factors: the parenting time breakdown, and for bother parties, the gross income, the health, dental, and vision insurance costs, work-related child care costs, and other support obligations.

What is the average child support payment for one child?
Unfortunately, this data is not available. All information about child support orders are in the individual files for those cases. And to my knowledge, all of this information has not been consolidated for statistical purposes.

Can child support take your whole paycheck?
No, child support usually ends up taking a rough percentage of your pay. But the calculation is theoretically designed to ensure that the payor can still meet personal living expenses. Certainly, once a child support obligation is in place, sacrifices may need to be made in other areas. But you will not lose your whole paycheck.

Is child support based on gross or net income?
Child support in MA is based on gross income from ALL sources. Net income is irrelevant for purposes of the calculation. Net pay can easily be manipulated. Parties can lower their net pay by increasing their exemptions or contributing to their retirement accounts for example. Gross pay is less easily manipulated. Although I’m not sure this is exactly why gross pay is used, it seems like a relevant factor.

Can your child support be reduced if you have another child?
No. Having another child can only be used as a defense to a request for an increase by the other party. However, it cannot be used as grounds for decreasing an existing child support amount.

How can I get out of child support?
The only way to “get out” of child support is if 1) the other party agrees that you don’t have to pay any and the court approves if there’s a case filed 2) the child becomes emancipated, or 3) someone else adopts your child.

Does 50/50 custody result in child support?
Yes, 50/50 custody may still require a child support payment. In a shared physical custody arrangement (50/50), child support is calculated with running the calculation first with one parent as the primary caretaker, then with the other parent as the primary caretaker. You then subtract the smaller number from the larger, and the difference is the presumptive child support amount the higher earning parent will pay the other.

Can child support be stopped?
Yes, when either a change in the custody arrangement (person paying support has substantially more time than at time of previous order) or the child becomes emancipated by law, the payor can file to terminate support.

Is child support tax deductible?
No, child support is not tax-deductible for the payor, nor is it taxable to the recipient.

What percentage of your income do you have to pay in child support?
Child support is not calculated according to an exact percentage of income. Rather, it’s determined by the MA Child Support Guidelines and its Calculation. Generally, the court considers the parties’ parenting times, which can fall anywhere on a spectrum of no time at all for one parent to approximately shared parenting time.

Once the parenting time is determined, the following numbers are entered into the calculation: the gross incomes of the parties and any allowed deductions, including health, dental and vision insurance, child care costs, and other support obligations (e.g. support for other children, previous alimony obligation). The resulting number is the presumptive child support amount.

How does MA calculate child support?
MA calculates child support using the MA Child Support Guidelines in conjunction with the MA Child Support Worksheet/Calculator. The Guidelines provide the rules, and the worksheet, or calculator in its place, is the tool used to perform the calculation. The main numbers used for the calculation are the parties’ gross incomes, and allowed deductions, such as health, vision, and dental insurance, and other support orders. Here’s a link to both the guidelines and the worksheet: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/child-support-guidelines#2018-guidelines,-forms,-and-information-

How much can you get for child support for 2 kids?
The amount of child support you receive for 2 kids depends on a number of factors: the parenting time breakdown, and for bother parties, the gross income, the health, dental, and vision insurance costs, work-related child care costs, and other support obligations.

What is the average child support payment for one child?
Unfortunately, this data is not available. All information about child support orders are in the individual files for those cases. And to my knowledge, all of this information has not been consolidated for statistical purposes.

Can child support take your whole paycheck?
No, child support usually ends up taking a rough percentage of your pay. But the calculation is theoretically designed to ensure that the payor can still meet personal living expenses. Certainly, once a child support obligation is in place, sacrifices may need to be made in other areas. But you will not lose your whole paycheck.

Is child support based on gross or net income?
Child support in MA is based on gross income. Net income is irrelevant for purposes of the calculation. Gross pay is much more difficult to manipulate than net pay. For example, parties can lower their net pay by increasing their exemptions or contributing to their retirement accounts for example.

Can your child support be reduced if you have another child?
No. Having another child can only be used as a defense to a request for an increase by the other party. However, it cannot be used as grounds for decreasing an existing child support amount.

How can I get out of child support?
The only way to “get out” of child support is if 1) there’s a case filed, and the other party agrees that you don’t have to pay any and the court approves, 2) the child becomes emancipated, or 3) your obligations may be terminated if someone adopts your child.

Does 50/50 custody result in child support?
Yes, 50/50 custody may still require a child support payment. In a shared physical custody arrangement (50/50), child support is calculated with running the calculation first with one parent as the primary caretaker, then with the other parent as the primary caretaker. You then subtract the smaller number from the larger, and the difference is the presumptive child support amount the higher earning parent will pay the other. With many of the calculators online, there’s no need for two separate calculations. You can enter that there’s 50/50 custody, and the calculator will automatically compute the correct amount.

Can child support be stopped?
Yes, when either a change in the custody arrangement (person paying support has substantially more time than at the time of previous order) or the child becomes emancipated by law, the payor can file to terminate support.

Is child support tax deductible?
No, child support is not tax-deductible for the payor, nor is it taxable to the recipient.

What is considered income in child support?
ALL income from ANY source is considered income for purposes of child support. This includes regular income for employment, investment earnings including retirement, and any other source of income. The only exception is means-tested public assistance.

Can I get child support if the father is unemployed?
The minimum amount of child support is $25 per week as of 2018, and this can be set as the child support amount if the payor is unemployed. However, the court can order an even higher amount with “income attribution,” which can be used by the court when it believes the payor is intentionally unemployed or underemployed. Essentially, the court can treat the payor as if that person were earning more if the court believes that person’s income should be higher.

Can child support be reduced if non-custodial parent remarries?
No, remarriage is not an event that would trigger a reduction in child support. The Child Support Guidelines and Calculation consider only the payor’s income, not the spouse’s. However, the court has the discretion to consider the payor’s spouse’s income and assets in determining if the payor can afford to pay more support for the children - but this is rarely used by the courts.

Do child support payments automatically stop?
No. Typically, the party paying child support has to file a complaint for modification asking the court to terminate it. If the parties are in agreement that child support should end, they can file a joint petition for modification, which is more efficient and can be processed administratively by the court.

Can child support debt be forgiven?
Typically, any child support arrears accrued have to be paid in full, including interest and penalties if the Department of Revenue is processing it. The recipient may agree to forgive some of the debt. But counting on that is a recipe for disappointment. That’s why it’s so important for the payor to file a complaint for modification whenever there’s a change in circumstance that affects the ability to pay - decreased income, loss of a employment, etc.

Do mothers have to pay child support?
Yes, if a mother is either not the primary caretaker or the parties share parenting time and the mother is the higher wage earner, she may be ordered to pay child support. Gender is irrelevant to the child support calculation.

What is 60/40 child custody?
60/40 child custody refers to the breakdown in parenting time. The parent with 60% of the parenting time will usually be considered the primary care parent. This becomes an issue in child support because although there’s a unique calculation for shared physical custody (50/50), the standard calculation is used for 60/40, which may not be fair as 40% of parenting time is a significant amount. However, the judge can deviate from the suggested child support amount if necessary to arrive at a fair amount.

Can you sign your rights away and not pay child support?
Typically non-custodial parents are obligated to pay child support until the child is emancipated. This applies even when the child is under a guardianship with a non-parent. However, once a parents signs rights to a child away via adoption, financial obligations for the child such as child support and health insurance coverage and payments may be terminated.

Can a non-custodial parent claim a child on a tax return?
Yes. If a parent is paying child support - especially at the Guidelines-recommended amount, the court will typically allow that parent to claim the child for federal and state income tax purposes every other year. However, the court may add a contingency that the parent must be current on child support payments at year-end in order to utilize the tax benefit.

Do gifts count as income for child support?
Gifts are not typically included as income for child support purposes. If the “gifts” are regularly recurring and are providing a stream of income to the parent, an argument can be made that it should be considered income. But that’s really not a gift. A typical one-time gift is usually not income.

Can you go to jail for not paying child support?
Yes. You may be jailed for failure to pay child support. When the recipient files a contempt action, if the judge finds a willful violation of the court order, there’s typically an order for the payor to pay an amount within a certain period of time. If there are repeated violations of the court order and the judge feels that the payor is not making sufficient effort and/or disregarding the court’s orders, the judge can order the payor incarcerated and designate a “purge” amount that has to be paid before the payor is released.

Do I have to pay child support if I have joint custody?
You may have to pay child support even if you have joint custody. When parenting time is approximately equal between parents (50/50), the courts use what’s called a “cross-guidelines” calculation for child support. Essentially they calculate child support once with one parent as the primary caretaker, then the other, then subtract the lower result from the higher, and that’s typically the amount that the higher earner has to pay the other. A child support calculator will automatically do this math when the option for shared physical custody is chosen.

Does a father have rights if he pays child support?
Although child support is partially based on the amount of parenting time the payor has, rights to a child and child support are two separate issues. A parent not paying support regularly may still have parenting time and other rights - for example to participate in making major decisions for the child.

On the other hand, paying child support doesn’t necessarily guarantee parenting time and decision-making authority. Generally, the court makes an effort to establish and strengthen the relationship between father and child. However, the court may deny a father rights if it finds that the child’s relationship with the father is not in the child’s best interest. For example, if the father presents a danger to the child, the father may lose all “rights.”

How Does Getting Married Again Affect Child Support?
Getting married again generally doesn’t affect child support. A judge may take into account the income and assets of the payor’s new spouse in determining the payor’s ability to pay support. However, the actual numbers - i.e. the other spouse’s income and assets - are not part of the child support calculation.

What is 70/30 child custody?
70/30 child custody refers to the percentage of parenting time breakdown between the parties, in which the primary care parent has the child 70% of the time, and the other parent 30%. This parenting time breakdown typically results in a “full guidelines” child support amount, which is generally ordered on cases in which the parenting time is roughly 2/3 to 1/3.

Can a mother keep her child from the father?
A mother can typically only keep her child from the father if the level of risk to the child is sufficiently high that the court finds that parenting time is not in the best interest of the child. Even in circumstances in which the court believes there’s physical or emotional risk to the child, the court will attempt to structure a parenting time arrangement that ensures the safety of the child, such as supervised visitation. But if the level of risk is sufficiently high and/or there’s a finding that parenting time would harm the child, the court may allow a mother to keep her child from the father.

How do you prove a parent unfit?
You can prove a parent unfit by proving that the parent cannot effectively care for the child. There are many issues that can contribute to a finding of unfitness. For example, a parent may be severely mentally ill, have a substance abuse problem, engage in or allow domestic violence toward the child or in the child’s presence, among other issues. Gathering information about prior incidents of abuse or neglect along with evidence that the parent’s current state is such that the risk of further abuse or neglect is significant is an effective way to build proof of unfitness.

Can I get more child support if my ex-remarries?
Generally, your ex’s remarrying will not result in an increase in child support, which is based primarily on the gross incomes of the parents and some allowed deductions. However, in determining whether a child support payor can afford support, a judge may take into account the payor’s spouse’s income and assets. But in practice, this rarely makes a difference as judge’s focus on the incomes and allowed deductions for the parties.

Do mothers usually get full custody?
In many cases, it happens to be that the mother has been the primary caretaker of the children and therefore, it’s in the best interest of the children that she continue in that role. However, the courts are increasingly willing to grant fathers shared and even full custody. The courts must focus on what’s in the best interest of the child and the gender of the parents is not a factor in that analysis.

What percentage of fathers have custody?
There’s no mechanism I know of to measure this statistic. However, father’s are more likely than ever before to gain custody of a child. First, courts are obligated to do what’s in the best interest of the child regardless of the parent’s gender. So if a father is the best fit to be the primary care parent, the courts are increasingly likely to order that. In the last few decades, women have been increasingly more productive in the workforce, and there are fewer families in which the mother is solely dedicated to caring for the children as was very common in the past. Therefore, the percentage of fathers who have custody seems to be on the rise.

Is it kidnapping if there is no custody order?
Kidnapping in MA is a crime, and technically, it’s keeping someone or forcing the person to go somewhere against the person’s will. So there can be kidnapping with or without a custody order. A different, but related issue is when a parent wants to move out of state with a child, which is “removal,” and is discussed below.

Can a police officer enforce a child custody order?
Police officers generally try to stay out of family law disputes. If a crime is being committed by one of the parents, the officer can take action. However, when there are disagreements about parenting time and related issues, the officer will usually tell the parties that they must address the issue in family court.

Removal: Can a mother leave the state with a child without the consent of the father?
A parent generally cannot permanently remove a child out of state without either a court order or consent of the other parent. If that issue is raised, the court will determine whether removal out-of-state is in the best interest of the child. If there’s shared custody, it’s generally more difficult for the moving parent to convince a court that the child should move.