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Child Support Guideline Income Defined

The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines define the gross income upon which a child support order will be based as being, “gross income from whatever source regardless of whether that income is recognized by the Internal Revenue Code or reported to the Internal Revenue Service or state Department of Revenue or other taxing authority.” A child support order is going to be based on absolutely all gross income of the payor with only three exceptions that will be discussed below.

Have you noticed that the definition above talks about gross income? That means that the payor’s expenses (both living expenses and recreational expenses) are to be ignored.

The Child Support Guidelines definition of gross income also includes all tax exempt income and even income that may not be required to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service or to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

Net income from selfemployment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership of a partnership or closelyheld corporation, is defined in the Child Support Guidelines as “gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income”. Notice that the net business income that is to be included in the appropriate level of gross income available to a parent to satisfy a child support obligation under the Child Support Guidelines is independent of the definition of net business income that should be used for income tax purposes and is independent of whatever net income figure the business actually reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

Business expense reimbursements, inkind payments or benefits received by a parent, personal use of business property, payment of personal expenses by a business in the course of employment, selfemployment, or operation of a business may be included as income under the Child Support Guidelines if such payments are significant and reduce personal living expenses.

Even social security benefits and SSDI benefits are included in a parent’s gross income for child support purposes. And if a parent receives social security benefits or SSDI benefits and the child(ren) of the parties receive a dependency benefit derived from that parent’s benefit, the amount of that dependency benefit will also be included in the gross income of that parent.

The three exceptions regarding income that may not be included in the gross income of the payor are:

  • Income from overtime or a second job, after taking into consideration the history of the income, the expectation that the income will continue to be available, the economic needs of the parties and the children, the impact of the overtime on the parenting plan, and whether the extra work is a requirement of the job; and
  • If, after a child support order is entered, a payor or recipient obtains a second job or begins to work overtime, neither of which was worked prior to the entry of the order, it will be a presumed that the second job or overtime income should not be considered in a future support order; and
  • If the child(ren) are under the care of a nonparent guardian, that nonparent guardian’s income shall not be considered for purposes of calculating a child support obligation. In other words, the income of a nonparent guardian cannot be used to reduce the child support obligation of a non-custodial parent.


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