Child Support is the amount of money paid by one parent to the other parent for the support of the children’s expenses. Child Support is calculated using the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, which are updated every four years. The formula is usually presumptive, and can be calculated online using our Child Support Guidelines Worksheet here. If you are going to court, there are no guarantees as to how a Judge might rule because there is some discretion as to how the Child Support Guidelines can be applied. If you resolve your case through settlement, Collaborative Divorce, or Mediation, you have the right to deviate based on agreements that take into account your particular circumstances and parenting plan. Below we have provided answers to many of the common questions that we are asked about Child Support. If you would like more information please do not hesitate to call us at 508.655.5980 or e-mail us.
In Massachusetts, child support can continue until the child is twenty-three (23). Except for the absolute maximum of age twenty-three (23), child support does not end upon a specific age but rather when the child becomes “emancipated.” Emancipation in Massachusetts is defined in M.G.L. ch. 208 s. 28.
In basic terms child support in Massachusetts stops when the child turns age:
- 18, unless the child is still principally dependent on the custodial parent (i.e. the child is no longer principally dependent if they’ve moved out of the home, except for college, is employed full time, is married, of has joined the military);
- 21, unless the child is enrolled in a full-time undergraduate college program;
- 23, no matter what.
It is possible for a parent of a child over 23 to receive support if that child is a disabled adult and the subject of a guardianship, but this is rare. If you have a child who is disabled, whether they are an adult or not, you should consult with an attorney to discuss how your child’s disability might affect other areas of your case as well.
The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines are updated every four years. The current guidelines can be found here.
Income is defined by the Guidelines and includes everything you could possible construe as income. The exact list is available on page 2 of the Guidelines available here. Income for the Guidelines can include income not recognized or taxed by the IRS and if you are unsure of what should or should not be included you should consult with an attorney.
The Court can discount a second job or overtime income (fully or partially), but only if the Judge first considers the history of the extra income, the expectation that the income will continue, the impact of the overtime on the parenting plan, whether the extra work is a requirement of the job, and what the needs are of the parties and the children.
If the second job was started only after a child support order is set, then there is a presumption that it won’t be considered in adjusting future orders.
The current Guidelines don’t refer specifically to “shared custody” or “sole custody” but rather they recognize that whatever the label what’s really important is the actual parenting plan. A parenting plan defines how much time each parent spends with the child, what the children’s primary residence is (their “home base”) and in some cases can be specific in enough to define every hour of every week and holiday.
The Guidelines are based upon the children having a primary residence with one parent and spending approximately 1/3 of the time with the other parent. If the parents share time equally, including sharing the financial responsibility equally, then the guidelines shall be calculated both ways.
Practitioners often call this “cross-guidelines.” The child support guidelines are calculated twice, first with one parent as the Recipient, and second with the other parent as the Recipient. The Order is the difference in the calculations, which shall be paid to the parent with the lower weekly support amount.
We have provided the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Worksheets here.
In a Divorce case, a custodial parent cannot receive any child support for time prior to the filing and service of the Complaint. This is because there is a presumption that the parents lived together and shared income until the case was filed.
In a Paternity case there is no such presumption and a custodial parent can request child support arrears dating all the way back to the birth of the child. There are a number of factors that the Court can consider in determining the amount of and the appropriateness of a child support arrearage and you should consult with an attorney to discuss these factors, especially since this can often be a very significant amount of money.
Child Support is not taxable income to the recipient, and is NOT tax deductible to the payor.