What You Need to Know about Massachusetts Child Support
Child support usually consists of fixed, regular payments from the non-custodial to the custodial parent. If the parents can’t agree on a payment amount, the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines are used to calculate it.
How The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Work
The calculated support amount will primarily depend on the parents’ respective gross incomes. Each parent gets deductions from gross income, including for other child support obligations, child care costs, and health/dental insurance. A formula is then used to determine the support amount.
1. In January 2009, new child support guidelines were released. One major change is that they now provide for a discount to a parent with subsequent child-related expenses. For example, if a father has two children from his marriage, divorces, then gets a third child through another relationship, in a child support case for the children of the marriage, the judge has the discretion to give the father a discount for the new child’s expenses.
2. The legal definition of income for purposes of child support is broad and includes salaries, overtime, royalties, bonuses, benefits, pensions and 22 other sources listed in the guidelines. Basically, if money’s coming in, you must report it, and it’s part of the calculation.
3. The custodial parent is responsible for the first $250 in uninsured medical expenses for the child, and the rest should be divided between the parties.
4. The minimum support order is $80/month – usually for low earners and the unemployed.
5. Judges have more discretion in determining support for children ages 18-23 – when they’re not really “children” anymore but are still dependent on a parent.
6. The non-custodial parent is expected, in addition to the child support, to contribute gifts, clothing, and transportation.
The judge can deviate from the Guidelines amount in any of the following circumstances: there’s an agreement by the parties, the child has special needs, extraordinary medical or other expenses for either the child or the parents, incarceration, or any other reason that would make the guidelines amount unjust.
Attribution of Income
If the noncustodial parent is either not working or underemployed (has a lower paying job by choice), the court may attribute income for purposes of calculation. If you voluntarily cut your hours in half to avoid child support, the court can use your full-time salary to determine the support amount. Nice try.
Generally, if the new support amount using the Guidelines differs from the old amount and it’s been 3 years since the last order, the receiving parent is entitled to the new support amount. Also, even within three years, if there’s a material change in circumstance (illness, loss of job) for either parent, the court may order a new amount.
The Department of Revenue (DOR) is the state agency responsible for monitoring and enforcing child support obligations. Any parent receiving child support is eligible for DOR services free of charge and can register at the time of the order. In addition, for more immediate relief the custodial parent can file a complaint about contempt against the deadbeat, requesting a court order for payment. A contempt finding can result in fines and other court penalties, including incarceration.
Obligations usually stop at age 18 but can go to age 23 if the child is dependent on a parent for support, and is attending high school or an undergraduate college full-time.
Visitation & Support
Never withhold visitation because child support is overdue. Doing so can result in serious consequences, including loss of custody.
This site and all information on it is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT LEGAL ADVICE. You should seek competent legal representation on any legal matter.