The basics of child support in Massachusetts

When a couple chooses to initiate a divorce in Massachusetts, it can have major emotional and financial impacts on the family, especially for any children involved in the separation. Children may experience a significant change in the quality of life that they have become accustomed to through the years. Child support acts as a cushion to soften the financial blow that may occur as the result of a divorce. Not only does the monthly child support payment help the custodial parent afford the child's daily living expenses, but it helps minimize the lifestyle changes that may take place once the family separates.

Income shares model

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, Massachusetts uses the income shares model when calculating child support. This model is based on the belief that children of divorce should have the same amount of finances available to them that they would have had if their parents had stayed together.

Factors that influence child support

Parents are equally responsible for financially supporting their child; however, the court will take certain factors into consideration when determining the amount of child support the non-custodial parent will be ordered to pay. According to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, the court will look at the following:

  • All sources of income for both parents, including royalties, bonuses, social security benefits, insurance benefits, workers compensation, unemployment, annuities and lottery winnings in addition to wages and salaries.
  • How much time the child spends with each parent.
  • The cost of child care if applicable.
  • The age and health of the children.
  • The cost of health insurance coverage.

Since every divorce case is unique, any other child-related expenses, including the cost of education and extracurricular activities, will be factored into the support plan as well.

Child support modification

Life is unpredictable, and certain life circumstances may mandate a change in the court-ordered child support amount. Whether there has been a substantial change in the cost of health insurance or a parent has lost their job, the court may choose to adjust the child support amount. According to the Massachusetts court system, a child support modification can be filed online, through the Department of Revenue or through the court.

Deviation from the Child Support Guidelines

In some cases, the Child Support Guidelines may render a child support amount that is unattainable, or there may be other details in a divorce case that do not fit within the realm of the guidelines. For instance, if a child has special needs or extraordinary medical expenses, or if one of the parents is incarcerated, special adjustments or deviations can be made to the child support order.

Find an attorney

Going through the divorce process can be overwhelming in and of itself. Parents who are forced to deal with child support orders on top of the emotional rollercoaster may find comfort in contacting an attorney with an extensive understanding of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. An attorney can lend essential counsel to those who are struggling with divorce.