Child Support Guidelines in Massachusetts

On August 1, 2013, the MA Child Support Guidelines revisions went into effect for determining the amount of child support one parent pays to the other parent. These Child Support Guidelines provide a mathematical formula for how much a parent will pay to the other parent with the child or children.  The parent who pays child support is called the “Payor”.  The parent who receives child support is called the “Recipient”.
 

Who Does these Guidelines Apply to?

The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines apply to separated parents who are married or unmarried regarding paying child support for use in temporary, permanent or final orders in courts in Massachusetts.  These guidelines apply to cases involving children who are new born to age 18 and children who are over 18 and in high school.

 

What about Payment of Child Support After a Child Graduates from High School?

In deciding whether child support should be paid by parents of children who are over age 18 and out of high school, the court uses its discretion in ordering child support and payment of post secondary education such as college or a trade school.  The factors that the court looks at whether to order child support after a child graduates from high school is based on statutes which are M.G.L. Chapter 208, Section 28 in divorce cases and M.G.L. Chapter. 209C, Section 9 for children of unmarried parents and M.G.L. Chapter 209, Section 37 for children of married, but separated parents.  These factors stated in Section II, Paragraph F of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines that the court considers in child support after the child is 18 and out of high school are:  “the reason for the continued residence with and dependence on the Recipient, the child’s academic circumstances, living situation, the available resources of the parents, the costs of post-secondary education for the child, the availability of financial aid and the allocation of these costs, if, any between the parents.”

 

What is Considered in the Massachusetts Child Support Guideline Worksheet?

Income has to be determined for both parents.  Then the child support calculation is done.

 

Income

Income is determined for both parents by listing the amount of gross weekly income minus certain deductions. Income is money that one receives and 28 sources are considered such as wages, bonuses, pensions, lottery, gambling winnings, etc.  Gross income is the money a parent earns before taxes, health insurance and any other deductions are made.  The income is determined on a weekly basis.

 

How is Child Support Calculated?

Each parent puts their gross weekly income into the formula.

          Child Care Costs

The reasonable child care costs are then deducted.  The child care costs that the court allows are child care when a parent goes to work or when a parent attends training or education necessary to obtain gainful work or enhance their ability to earn more money.  

 

          Health Insurance

 

The Court needs to determine whether health insurance is available to cover the child and include it in the support order. The amount of reasonable cost of health insurance that the parent actually pays is deducted. The Guidelines state in Part II Paragraph G that “Each party may deduct from gross income the reasonable cost of individual or family health insurance actually paid by that party.”  It is interesting in footnote 5 under these Guidelines discussing Health Insurance, it states that “Current statutory language permits the Recipient of child support to provide health insurance if there is agreement, but absent agreement the Court lacks authority to require the Recipient to provide health insurance.”

 

          Dental and Vision Costs

 

Dental and vision costs that are paid are next deducted.

 

          Other Child Support Obligations   

 

Last, other ordered support obligations that the Payor parent pays per an order for another child or spouse, for voluntary payments for another child who doesn’t reside with that parent or as stated in Part II, H: “a hypothetical amount of child support for a child with whom the Payor parent resides but for whom no child support order exists, which hypothetical child support amount shall be calculated according to the Guidelines Worksheet using the gross incomes of both parents of the child” could be deducted.

 

The available income is determined for both parents and then that amount is added together.

 

Child Support Calculation

 

The Child Support Calculation is made from a formula.  The calculations may appear to be complex, but the formula is online and the figure automatically calculated.  To review the formula, please visit: http://www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport/cjd304-worksheet-child-support-guidelines.pdf.

 

The child support calculation is then based on a chart under “Table A” for one child.  Then under Table B, there is an amount for each child such as: one child’s adjustment is 1.00, two children is 1.25, three children is 1.38, 4 children is 1.45 and five children is 1.48.  If one has more than five children, then one needs to use the calculation for five children.  A parent does not need to remember these formulas as the online computer program figures it out for you.

 

What about Overtime or Second Jobs?

 

The court could disregard overtime and second jobs for the parents under Part I, Paragraph B, but the court has to look at factors such as the history of the income, if it is expected that the extra income would continue, the economic needs of the parents and children, the overtime impact on a parenting plan and if the extra work is required by a parent’s job. If one gets a second job after a child support order or overtime is made, it is not to be considered.

 

What if Income is Not Reported?

 

Each parent has to report all income that one receives.  If one does not report all or part of the income, the court could look at what assets that parent owns and how that asset is maintained, a parent’s lifestyle, the expenses and patterns of spending and increase the amount of income or impute income to that parent.

 

What if One Parent is Unemployed or Underemployed?

 

There are factors that the court could look at if a parent is unemployed or if a parent doesn’t work at their ability called being underemployed.  The factors that the court looks at are a parent’s “education, training, health, past employment, history of the party and the availability of employment at the attributed income level” as stated in Part I, Paragraph E of the Guidelines under “Attribution of Income.”     If a parent is caring for small children, the court will look at the age of these children and how many children a parent is caring for to determine if that parent should work to contribute to the care of the child or children.

 

What if the Child is in Private School or There are Other Costs such as Extra Curricular Activities or Camp?

 

If the parents are paying for private school, extracurricular activities, camp, post secondary expenses, the court has to determine if the payment of these costs are in the child’s best interest and are affordable by the parents.  If so, the court could allocate these costs, but will do so by looking at situation of the parents.

 

What Are Some of the Major Changes In Addition to this Formula

 

There are some new parts of the 2013 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, which are:

 

1.  Presenting the tax consequences to the Court in divorce cases where alimony and child support may be at issue under  Part II “Factors to Be Considered in Setting the Child Support Order.”  However, the Guidelines state that an Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not permit using the same money in creating a child support order and an alimony order using the same money which is under $250,000.

 

2.  If the combined income of both parents is over $250,000, the Court could consider additional support, but payment of additional money is in the discretion of the Court.

 

3.  Parenting time, which is the time each parent spends with the child is considered under the 2013 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines as:

 

a.)  if one is the Payor parent, then the court presumes the child spends one-third of his or her time with that parent;

 

b.)  if both parent spend equal time with the child, then the child support is done twice, once with one parent as the Payor and the other as the Recipient and then the other parent as the Payor and the other as the Recipient.  Once the calculation is obtained for each, the higher number is subtracted from the lower number. The higher wage earner will then pay the lower wage earner some child support.

 

c)  if parents share parenting time with the child, but the time spent is greater than 30% and less then 50%, then the Guidelines state in Part I, Paragraph D: “The average of the base child support and the shared custody cross calculation shall be the child support amount paid to the Recipient.”

 

d.) if parents share parenting time with more than one child, the child support has to be calculated twice with the number of children in his or her care; then the amount from the calculation needs to be determined and the higher wage earner pays child support to the lower wage earner.

 

e.)  if the Payor parent spends less than one-third of the time with the child, the court could increase the amount of child support that that parent has to pay.

 

4.  Modification of the child support can be changed under Part III, but waiting for the three years stated in the prior Guidelines appears to have been removed except if the Department of Revenue is involved and providing IV-D services and a substantial change of circumstances and inconsistency occurs.  The order could be changed as stated in Part III, Paragraph A 1,  where  “there is an inconsistency between the amount of the existing order and the amount that would result from the application of the child support guidelines.”  There could also be changes if issues related to health insurance if it is available or if it is not longer available or a “material and substantial change in circumstances”.

 

Could One Deviate from these Guidelines?

The parents could agree to deviate or Court could deviate from these Guidelines in Part IV of the Guidelines, but the Court needs to enter specific written Findings.  There is an online form for these written Findings which can be found at: http://www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport/2013-child-support-findings-for-deviation-form.pdf.

 

Conclusions

 

To conclude, the Child Support Guidelines provide a mathematical formula to determine how much a parent must pay for child support to the other parent.  It is helpful if one has their pay stub and other sources of weekly gross income available, day care expenses, the weekly health insurance costs, dental and vision costs paid and other child and other support obligations when calculating the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines.  One needs to follow the directions as stated in the formula to calculate what needs to be paid under the revised Guidelines.

 

The link for the 2013 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines can be found at: http://www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport/2013-child-support-guidelines.pdf

 

This article is intended only for informational purposes.  It is not intended to provide legal advice.