What is Child Support?
Child support was created so both parents are legally responsible for financially supporting their children. Typically in Massachusetts, the parent that doesn’t have primary physical custody will be required to supplement the primary custodial parent with child support. The reason for this is that the custodial parent is assumed to be contributing what is necessary while they house and care for the child.
The amount of support is determined based on child support guidelines. Both parties can agree to increase the amount, but rarely can they decrease what the guidelines define.
In all cases, the courts will determine what is in the children’s best interest and calculate the amount required based on their assessment.
How is Child Support Calculated in Massachusetts?
Both parents must include their gross income on a child support guidelines worksheet that will be included with the rest of the divorce paperwork when minor children are involved.
Gross income includes money received from wages or salary, disability, social security income, and more. Money received from bonuses, dividends, pensions, military pay, and royalties must also be included.
Each parent’s gross income is then analyzed to determine proportionate responsibility for the financial care of their child. For example, if one parent makes $7,000 a month and the other $3,000, their respective proportions would be 70% and 30%. These percentages are used to calculate what each parent can afford and should provide.
Other factors considered are if child support payments are in place for other children, the age of the children, health care costs, and child care costs. Once the courts fully understand all income and expenses, they will determine what is in the child’s best interest.
Can Child Support Be Avoided?
Sometimes, parents may choose not to disclose their total income, attempting to avoid higher child support payments. Courts have the discretion to increase reported income for either party if they feel this is necessary.
An example may be if one of the parents is self-employed and is accepting additional cash “under the table” and not reporting it or inflating their expenses. Hence, it appears they don’t pull the reported income level. These scenarios will be carefully reviewed to ensure they are fully transparent and accurate.
Suppose one party is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed to avoid child support. In that case, this may also cause the courts to assign a higher income on their behalf so they can’t effectively avoid child support.
Can We Challenge the Court’s Decision on Child Support?
The burden of proof will rely on the parents should they choose to challenge the court’s decision. Before the courts make a final decision, you may challenge the amount of support with evidence of your financial concerns. If the concerns affect the children’s best interests, the court may choose to review your information.
Suppose that your child has special needs or extraordinary medical expenses. Medical records can prove these costs, and the court may adjust based on your information.
Some couples will have agreed on child support outside of the court, and what has been required doesn’t match this number. Both parties can discuss with the courts why they feel it is unfair and why they came up with a different number.
One of the parents may have extraordinary medical or insurance costs that can affect the ability to pay. They may also have a much more lavish lifestyle or travel expenses that they feel should reduce their ability to pay for support. All reasonable scenarios will be reviewed before a final decision is made.
Can Child Support Payments Be Modified?
As children grow and life changes, what was once sufficient may no longer be regarding child support. If there is a material or substantial change to surrounding factors, you may have the option to request a modification of support payments.
The term “material or substantial” is a gray area and should be discussed with an experienced attorney. If one of the parties has an unreasonable or insignificant concern, their request will likely be denied.
If one of the parties, however, has a reasonable concern, such as access to healthcare has changed or will now impose a financial hardship, if one of the parents lost their job, or if other significant changes have occurred, they may choose to file a request for modification.
If both parties agree to the change, they can file a joint petition for a modification, and in most cases, they can avoid time in court. The courts will review the petition and supporting documents to decide.
How Can an Attorney Assist Me With Child Support Questions?
It is imperative to understand how child support will be calculated and how to change it should you need to. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process of including all income and ensuring that your calculations are factual.
Working with an attorney can provide peace of mind knowing that you have done all you can do to care for your family. They can also assist you with issues arising from the other party being dishonest with their calculations or avoiding employment to evade child support.
With decades of experience in helping to advocate for families, we are committed to protecting you and your children moving forward. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Let us help you stand up and require what your children deserve so they can remain cared for without financial hardship.
Call our office at (781) 606-9002 to get started.