Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines
It is not uncommon for divorcing couples to strongly disagree when financial matters are involved. Fortunately, a set of guidelines has been developed regarding the calculation of child support. When you are facing these issues, it is wise to schedule a consultation with an experienced child support lawyer.
Guidelines Take Numerous Factors Into Consideration
The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines include a formula that addresses both parents’ incomes. Specifically, the guidelines seek:
- To minimize the economic impact on the child’s standard of living.
- To encourage joint parental responsibility for child support in proportion to, or as a percentage of, income.
- To meet the child’s survival needs in the first instance, but to the extent either parent enjoys a higher standard of living to entitle the child to enjoy that higher standard.
- To protect a subsistence level of income of parents at the low end of the income range whether or not they are on public assistance.
- To take into account the nonmonetary contributions of both the custodial and noncustodial parents.
- To recognize the importance, availability and cost of health insurance coverage for the child.
- To minimize problems of proof for the parties and to simplify administration for the courts.
- To promote consistency in the setting of child support orders at all income levels.
The child support guidelines are intended to provide the court with assistance in determining the payment amount given the relative income levels of both parents. As such, a child support amount is not written in stone as there are situations where deviation from the guidelines is appropriate.
Calculating Child Support in Massachusetts
In most instances the amount of child support is determined by applying the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. The child support guidelines are based on the idea that both parents are intended to contribute to the support of the child. As such, the available gross income of both parents is used in calculating the weekly child support amount. A deduction is permitted from a parent’s available income for expenses paid in connection with child care costs, health insurance, dental/vision insurance and other support obligations. Utilizing the combined available income of both parents, the guidelines tabulate a combined weekly child support amount which is a determination of the total support obligation of both parents for one child. Adjustments are made for parents with more than one child. The combined support amount is then reduced by the recipient parent’s share of the combined amount with the remaining balance becoming the weekly support obligation of the payor parent.
The Child Support Guidelines also assume that the child(ren) have a primary residence with one parent and spend one-third of the time with the other parent. In cases where parents share physical custody of the child(ren), child support can be determined by calculating the amount of child support twice, first with one parent listed as the recipient, and second with the other parent listed as the recipient. The difference in the calculations shall be paid to the parent with the lower weekly support amount.
The Court will also look at the potential earning capacity and actual earnings of both parties. If it is found that either party is capable of working and is unemployed or underemployed and earning less than he or she could earn through reasonable effort, the Court is authorized to use the potential earning capacity rather than the actual earnings to calculate the support order. The Court will consider all relevant factors including but not limited to the party’s education, training, health, job history, and the age, number, needs and care of the child(ren) covered by the order.
The Child Support Guidelines are also intended to protect a minimum subsistence level, and the guidelines provide for a minimum order of $80 per month ($18.46 per week) for the payor whose income is less than $100 per week. This minimum standard does not limit the Court, and should the circumstances warrant the Court may deviate from the guidelines and order a higher or lower amount of support.
While the above description is intended only to provide a brief overview of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, one can see that calculating the weekly child support amount is complex. Whether you are the payor or the recipient parent, child support can have a tremendous impact on you and your family. It is essential that you are paying or receiving a child support amount that is fair and accurate. As such, it is important to have an experienced Massachusetts child support lawyer who is proficient with the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines.
Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines: Rebutting the Presumption
Parents are often frustrated with the rigid and mechanical nature in which the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines calculate the child support amount. As the guidelines utilize the combined income of the parents to calculate child support, parents are often left wondering how the guidelines reflect and account for other expenses and noneconomic contributions which impact their financial abilities and the overall support of the child. In many cases there are other mitigating factors that are relevant to the calculation of child support that are not considered on the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. Common examples of such mitigating factors include situations in which the payor or recipient parent:
- Is capable of working and is unemployed
- Pays expenses related to extracurricular activities, private school, post-secondary education or summer camps
- Has additional children with another family
- Receives SSDI benefits and a dependency benefit
- Obtains a second job or works overtime
- Fails to report income
- Pays routine uninsured medical costs
- Has extraordinary travel or other expenses related to parenting
- Is without the ability to support himself/herself
It is presumed that the guidelines will be applied in most cases establishing or modifying an order of child support; however, this presumption is rebuttable. In other words, the court does have discretion to vary from the guidelines and order an amount that is either higher or lower than that amount calculated by the guidelines. It is here that a skilled Massachusetts child support lawyer can prove to be invaluable. At Tangusso Law, in Salem, Massachusetts, we are zealous courtroom advocates who know how to tell your side of the story and fight for a child support amount that is fair and reasonable.
If you have further questions or concerns regarding the child support guidelines in Massachusetts, do not hesitate to contact us with questions. We have the experience and legal knowledge you need to get the results you desire.