Child support in Massachusetts is calculated by using the Child Support Guidelines. The Court will generally presume the Guidelines calculation for children under the age of 18 (or 18, if the child is still in high school) provides the proper amount of support, but has discretion to deviate in certain circumstances. While deviation from the Child Support Guidelines is not typical, a Court may deviate for good cause, including extraordinary travel necessary to exercise a parenting plan, significant medical expenses of the child and in cases where a child has special needs. Whenever a Court determines to deviate from the Child Support Guidelines, a judge is required to make specific findings to explain the departure from the calculated Guidelines amount.
Parents’ gross (before any deductions or withholdings from weekly income) income is used to calculate support, and the calculation permits credit for health insurance and daycare costs, as well as for support orders for children not included, whether there is a prior order or not, so long as support to the other child(ren) is being paid.
Child Support and Parenting Plans
The parenting plan may have a bearing on how child support is calculated according to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. The formula for parents who share time nearly evenly, and who share expenses of the children, will be different than for families where one parent has the children the majority of the time.
Additionally, courts have discretion whether to award child support in Massachusetts on behalf of a child who is over 18 but still unemancipated, and dependent on his parents. The guidelines in such cases are not presumptive, rather these determinations are always fact-specific and depend on a variety of factors.
When a child is enrolled full-time in college, the Court will have discretion in determining what, if any, child support ought to be paid to a parent above the contribution of college expenses. This is always a fact-specific analysis and depends on several factors including, for example, whether the child resides on campus or at home. In Massachusetts, a child beyond the age of majority is still entitled to the financial support of his parents, between the ages of 18-21, so long as the child remains living with a parent and principally dependent upon the parents for support. Courts may also make orders for child support – including orders for health insurance coverage – for children older than 21 through age 23 (or up to graduation from a four-year college program), who remain principally dependent on their parents because they are enrolled full-time in college.
With the exception of health insurance, daycare, and prior support orders, ordinary living expenses of a parent, as set forth in the financial statement that must be filed with the Court, do not enter into the Guidelines calculation.
The Court will also need to determine whether child support in Massachusetts should be paid by an “implemented” wage assignment, or whether one party should pay the other directly. When a child support order is implemented, the Department of Revenue’s Child Support Enforcement Division manages the receipt and payout of the support. Implemented wage assignments take the support directly from a parent’s pay, with the cooperation of his employer, and those funds are paid to DOR, which accounts the funds, and then pays the custodial parent. This payment method is especially helpful when the payor does not have a good track record of compliance with paying support. When necessary the DOR will impose both penalties and interest on late payments and will track arrearages. DOR may also file a Complaint for Contempt on behalf of the payee, and/or can impose a number of administrative remedies for parents who fail to pay, including suspending a driver’s license or a professional license from a payor in certain cases.
Contact the Experienced Plymouth County Child Support Lawyers at Mason & Nasios
Child support in Massachusetts is determined by many different factors in accordance with Child Support Guidelines in Massachusetts. If you live in Southeastern Massachusetts and need help to determine how much child support you are owed – or how much you will be paying – the skilled child support lawyers at Mason & Nasios are here to help. We have extensive experience handling child support cases and can help you with all family law issues related to divorce.
Contact the skilled family law attorneys at Mason & Nasios to schedule a free child support case evaluation at our offices in Brockton today. We service clients in Plymouth County and Southeastern Massachusetts.