Calculating Child Support
Child Support is calculated using the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines use many factors in calculating the amount of child support, including the combined income of the parents, how many children must be supported, and the ages of the children.
In Massachusetts, one of the stated goals of child support is to minimize, in cases of separation or divorce, the economic impact on the child’s standard of living and to promote joint parental responsibility for child support in proportion to, or as a percentage of, income. If one of the parents enjoys a higher standard of living than the other, it also gives the child the opportunity to enjoy the higher standard of living regardless of which parent has physical custody.
The child support guidelines are based upon a formula that the child spends approximately one third of their time with the parent who does not have physical custody of their child. If the non-residential parent is able to show to the court that their parenting time is less than one-third, the Court may consider an upward adjustment to the amount provided in the guidelines.
When is Child Support Paid?
In Massachusetts, child support is ordered in all cases of married or unmarried parents. Child support is paid in cases of where a child’s parents have never lived together, when parents separate, or in cases of divorce with couples with children. Child Support Orders are written as an Order of the Probate and Family Court. Child support may be paid directly by one parent to the other parent, through automatic withdrawals from a parent’s salary from their employer, or through the Department of Revenue.
Income Issues and Deviations from Child Support Guidelines
If the court believes that the payor is not earning as much as they could, because they are not trying to, the court can make the child support calculation based on the amount it believes the payor should be earning. This is called “attribution of income.” If the court believes that the payor has unreported income, it can increase the income used in the calculation to fit what it believes the real income to be and taking into account the fact that taxes are not being paid on that income.
For the child support recipient who believes or knows that the other parent is choosing not to work, not to work enough, or getting paid under the table in order to avoid paying child support or to underpay, these are very useful tools. However, for the child support payor who is honestly struggling, this can result in a crippling child support amount and often leads to the inability to pay resulting in contempt of court and possibly jail time.
If both parents agree to a lower amount then provided for in the Child Support Guideline, the parents must appear in Court and provide the reasons to the Judge for any downward deviation from the child support guidelines. Child support orders can be modified up or down if there is a change in circumstances. Whether you are a payor or recipient, Attorney Karen Lane can help.
Child Support attorney Karen D. Lane's office is located in Sherborn, which is centrally located in Middlesex County, 3.3 miles directly south of the MA Pike on the Natick/Framingham town lines. She represents family law clients throughout metro suburban Boston in Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Worcester, counties. If you have questions about child support, how to collect, or how to modify a child support order, please call Attorney Karen D. Lane at 508-655-5513 or contact her online today to schedule your free initial consultation.