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Child Support Guideline - Factors

What factors do the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines permit a Probate Judge to take into consideration when the Judge is deciding the appropriate amount of a child support order?

There are ten factors that the Child Support Guidelines direct a Probate Judge to consider before she/he sets a child support order:

Factor 1

The relationship between child support payments and alimony, if alimony is involved in the divorce, must be considered by a Probate Judge. From an income tax standpoint, the Child Support Guidelines assume that child support is nondeductible by the Payor and nontaxable to the Recipient. Usually alimony is deductible by the Payor and taxable to the Recipient. I say usually because in the case of same sex couples, at this point in time, the Internal Revenue Service does not recognize Massachusetts marriages between same sex couples so, in those cases, alimony will be nondeductible by the Payor and nontaxable to the Recipient. The Child Support Guidelines permit a Probate Judge to approve the labeling of support payments as alimony if the aftertax support received by the Recipient is not diminished.

Factor 2

Claims of personal exemptions for minor child dependants must be considered by a Probate Judge because the income tax obligation of the parent claiming the dependant exemption will be reduced.

Factor 3

The Child Support Guidelines suggest a minimum child support payment of at least $80.00 per month be made by non-custodial parents who have little income. The upper combined income limit of the Child Support Guidelines is $250,000.00 per year. Additional amounts of child support can be ordered for incomes above $250,000.00 per year, at the court’s discretion.

Factor 4

The Child Support Guidelines assume that the child(ren) reside with one of the parents 2/3 of the time and with the other parent 1/3 of the time. Where two parents share the financial responsibility and parenting time for the child(ren) equally, or approximately equally, the child support will be calculated by computing the Child Support Guidelines twice, first with one parent as the Recipient, and second with the other parent as the Recipient. The difference in the calculations is to be paid to the parent with the lower weekly support amount.

Where there is more than one child involved and each parent provides a primary residence for one or more of these children, child support shall be determined by calculating the Child Support Guidelines, first with one parent as the Recipient using the number of children in his or her care, and second with the other parent as the Recipient using the number of children in his or her care. The difference in the calculations is to be paid to the parent with the lower weekly support amount.

Factor 5

Reasonable child care costs, that are incurred because of gainful employment of either party, are to be deducted from the gross income of the party who pays those child care costs. Child care costs may include costs due to training or education reasonably necessary to obtain gainful employment or enhance the parent’s earning capacity.

Factor 6

The Child Support Guidelines apply to cases involving children from ages 018 years and children over 18 years of age who are still in high school. If the children are over 18 years of age, the Court will use its discretion in making a child support order. In using that discretion, the Court will consider the reasons that the child continues living with the Recipient and why the child continues being dependent on the Recipient, the child’s academic circumstances and living situation, the available resources of the parents, the costs of post high school education and the allocation of those costs between the parents, and the availability of financial aid.

Factor 7

Each party can deduct the reasonable cost of individual or family health insurance actually paid by that party from their gross income. If there is an additional cost to insure a person who is not a child of the parties covered by this order, and if the Court determines that such additional cost would unreasonably reduce the amount of child support being paid for the benefit of the children of the parties covered by this order, then some or all of such additional cost shall not be deducted from gross income.

When the Court makes an order for child support, the Court shall determine whether health insurance is available through an employer or otherwise available at a reasonable cost that may be extended to cover the child. When such insurance is available, the Court shall include in the support order a requirement that such health insurance be obtained or maintained for the child. The Payor and Recipient must agree in writing that such health insurance will be provided by means not including MassHealth.

Health care coverage, if it is available through an employer, shall be deemed available to the Payor at reasonable cost.

Factor 8

Each party can deduct from his or her gross income, the reasonable cost, actually paid by that party, for dental/vision insurance insuring the children of the parties covered by this order. If there is an additional cost to insure a person who is not a child of the parties, and if the Court determines that such additional cost would unreasonably reduce the amount of child support being paid for the benefit of the children of the parties covered by this order, then some or all of such additional cost shall not be deducted from gross income.

Factor 9

The Recipient must pay the first $250 each year in combined routine uninsured health and dental/vision expenses for all of the children of the parties covered by this order. For amounts above that limit, the Court shall allocate expenses between the parties without adjustment to the child support order.

Factor 10

The payment of uninsured extraordinary medical and dental expenses incurred for the children of the parties covered by this order shall be treated on a casebycase basis unless the parties agree otherwise.

Deviation

The Court, or the parties by agreement approved by the Court, may deviate from the Child Support Guidelines, provided the Court enters specific written findings stating all of the following:

  • The amount of the order that would result from application of the guidelines, and;
  • That the guidelines amount would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances, and;
  • The specific facts of the case which justify departure from the guidelines; and
  • That such departure is consistent with the best interests of the child(ren).

Circumstances which may support deviation include, but are not limited to:

  • The parties enter into a written agreement and the Court approves their agreement;
  • A child of the parties has special needs or aptitudes;
  • A child of the parties has extraordinary medical or other expenses;
  • Application of the guidelines, particularly in low income cases, leaves a party without the ability to self support;
  • The Payor is incarcerated, is likely to remain incarcerated for an additional 3 years and has insufficient financial resources to pay support;
  • Application of the guidelines would result in a gross disparity in the standard of living between the two households such that one household is left with an unreasonably low percentage of the combined available income;
  • A parent has extraordinary medical expenses;
  • A parent has extraordinary travel or other expenses related to parenting;
  • Application of the guidelines may adversely impact reunification of a parent and child where the child has been temporarily removed from the household based upon allegations of neglect; or
  • If there were no deviation, application of the Child Support Guidelines would lead to an order that is unjust, inappropriate or not in the best interests of the child, considering the Principles of these guidelines.


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