August 19, 2017

What You Need to Know about Massachusetts Child Support

Massachusetts has enacted new child support guidelines as of August 1, 2013 and they shall be applied to all child support orders and judgments entered after the effective date. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that these guidelines apply in all cases establishing or modifying a child support order.

In establishing these guidelines, due consideration has been given to the following principles:

1) to minimize the economic impact on the child’s standard of living;

2) to promote joint parental responsibility for child support in proportion to, or as a percentage of, income;

3) to meet the child’s survival needs in the first instance, but to the extent either parent enjoys a higher standard of living, to entitle the child to enjoy that higher standard;

4) to protect a subsistence level of income of parents at the low end of the income range whether or not they are on public assistance;

5) to recognize that the parents should bear any additional expenses resulting from the maintenance of two
separate households instead of one,since it is not the child’s decision that the parents divorce, separate, or otherwise live separately.

6) to recognize the non-monetary contributions and extent of involvement of both parents;

7) to recognize the monetary and/or in-kind contributions of both parents in addition to the child support order;

8) to promote consistency in the setting of child support orders at all income levels whenever appropriate;

9) to recognize the importance,availability, and cost of health insurance coverage for the child;

10) to allow for orders and wage assignments that can be adjusted as income increases or decreases; and

11) to minimize problems of proof for the parties and to streamline administration for the courts.

Support Calculations

Child support is typically determined based on a variety of factors that are unique to each set of parents. Some of these factors include:

  • Rate of pay of the Payor
  • Rate of pay of the Recipient
  • Child care paid
  • Health and dental insurance paid
  • Other prior support obligations
  • Number of children

Some support obligations are paid directly to the Recipient, some through wage garnishment, while others require the payer to pay the appropriate amount directly to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, or DOR.

Failure to Pay

Once you have a support order, it is your responsibility to make sure it is paid. If a payor fails to make the appropriate payments, action may be taken against him or her. Some of the potential consequences for failure to pay include but are not limited to:

  • interest and penalties imposed by DOR
  • Lien on real estate or personal property
  • Seizure of financial assets
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Interception of tax returns
  • imposition of a jail sentence
  • payment of attorney’s fees and costs

The exact consequences may vary depending on the amount you are behind and various other factors.

Support Modifications

Changes in circumstances can allow you to request for a child support modification, just like many other areas of family law. If you have changed jobs or been fired and have an increase or decrease in income, you may qualify for a support modification. It is always best to talk to a lawyer before filing for a modification to ensure you meet the guidelines for changing the order. Modifications are typically granted when there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances.

Child support is a necessary aspect when it comes to caring for children after divorce or the separation of the parents. When it is ordered, it is important for both parents to understand the reasons and follow through with the order to protect the best interest of the children involved.