Massachusetts Massachusetts

Child Support Laws

What Is Child Support?

Child support is an ongoing payment by a non-custodial parent to assist with the financial support of their children. Child support payments are often determined during the process of dissolution of a marriage through divorce, though the only requirements for requesting child support payments are establishment of paternity and maternity.

Child support is handled on a state level, and Massachusetts has a set of specific child support guidelines. On this page you can learn about how child support is calculated in Massachusetts, how custody split and extraordinary costs affect child support payments, and more.

Massachusetts Child Support Law Summary

Massachusetts uses the "income share" method for calculating child support payments, which is designed to ensure that both the custodial and non-custodial parents contribute to their child's upkeep.

Massachusetts's child support formula directly accounts for parents who share custody of a child, and support payment amounts are connected to the custody split. Other special situations accounted for under Massachusetts' child support law include childcare costs and extraordinary medical costs. These costs may be additions to the basic Massachusetts child support order.

How are Child Support Cases Handled?

Additional to the public policy that dependent children shall be supported from the resources of their parents and upon a complaint filed after a judgment of divorce, orders of maintenance and for support of minor children shall be modified if there is an inconsistency between the existing child support order and the amount calculated from child support guidelines proposed from the chief justice of the trial court or if there is a need to provide for the health care coverage of the child.

The order will be adjusted properly unless the inconsistency is due to the fact that the amount of the existing order resulted from a rebuttal and that there has been no change in the circumstances that resulted in the rebuttal.

Provided that even if the evidence that required not following the guidelines remain in effect, the order will be modified according to child support guidelines unless the court finds that the guidelines amount would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances and that the existing order is consistent with the best interests of the child.

Once the best interests of the child are listed, the court decides that a party has overcome such presumption, the court will make written findings indicating the amount of the order that would result from applying the state child support guidelines:

  • that the guidelines amount would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances

  • the specific facts of the case which justify departure from the guidelines

  • that such departure is consistent with the best interests of the child

Massachusetts Child Support Calculation Formula Methods

Child support can be arranged out of court by a mutual support agreement between the parents, or can be decided in Massachusetts family court through a child support order. In Massachusetts, a number of factors are taken into account when determining the amount of child support to be paid in court. Here is an explanation of the two most common methods used to calculate basic child support amounts.

Income Share Method

Under the income share model, the court uses economic tables to estimate the total monthly cost of raising the children. The non-custodial parent pays a percentage of the calculated cost that is based on their proportional share of both parents' combined income.

Example: The non-custodial parent of one child has an income of $2,000 per month, and the custodial parent has an income of $1,000 per month. The court estimates that the cost of raising one child is $1,000 a month. The non-custodial parent's income is 66.6% of the parent's total combined income. Therefore, the non-custodial parent pays $666 per month in child support, or 66.6% of the total child support obligation.

Massachusetts does use the income share method to calculate child support

Percentage Of Income Method

This method of calculating child support is simple - a set percentage of the non-custodial parent's income is paid monthly to the custodial parent to cover basic child support expenses. The percentage paid may stay the same, or vary if the non-custodial parent's income changes.

Example: The non-custodial parent of one child has an income of $2,000 per month. The court orders a flat percentage of 25% of the non-custodial parent's income to be paid in child support to the custodial parent. Therefore, the non-custodial parent pays $500 per month in child support. If the non-custodial parent's monthly income changes, the dollar amount they pay in child support will change as well.

Massachusetts does not use the percentage of income method to calculate child support

Massachusetts Child Support Frequently Asked Questions

How does having shared custody of the child affect child support in Massachusetts?

All states have a method of modifying the amount of child support owed in cases where the custody agreement provides for joint or shared custody of a child between both parents.

Massachusetts law accounts for shared custody of a child directly in the child support formula used to calculate payment amounts. This means that, in cases where custody is shared, the amount of child support paid by the paying parent will be reduced according to the amount of time they have custody of the child.

How are extraordinary medical costs treated by child support in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts has specialized guidelines for the sharing of a child's extraordinary medical care costs that are separate from, and in addition to, basic child support payments. Extraordinary medical costs are generally costs generated by things such as illness, hospital visits, or costly procedures such as getting braces.

How are child care costs treated by child support in Massachusetts?

Due to the high costs of child care for a single payment, Massachusetts has specialized guidelines that consider child care costs separately from the general costs of raising a child for the purposes of calculating child support payments.

Does child support cover college education expenses in Massachusetts?

While the state of Massachusetts has no explicit requirement for college expenses to be covered under child support, support for college expense by the non-custodial parent may be voluntarily agreed to by both parties, after which it is contractually enforceable.

How is child support enforced in Massachusetts?

In the state of Massachusetts, child support is enforced by the state child support agency. The state agency handles the location of non-custodial parents, enforcement of support orders, and the handling of unpaid child support arrears.

What are child support arrears?

Child support arrears are the amount of child support that is delinquent, or unpaid, by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. Child support arrears may be collected by the state through wage garnishment, bank levy. withholding of Massachusetts welfare benefits, or other collection methods.

How are child support payments taxed in Massachusetts?

Under IRS guidelines, the recepient of child support does not need to pay federal tax on child support payments, and the payer of child support cannot deduct their child support payments. This differs from the federal taxation of alimony payments, which are treated as taxable income by the receiver and are deductible by the payor. Massachusetts tax law may vary on tax treatment of child support.

| State Law Official Text

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