What is child support?

In the event of a divorce or in cases where the parents were never married, child support is payment from one parent to the other for the sole benefit of a child.

Who has to pay child support?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts expects both parents to provide financial support for his or her child. The determining factors are considered by the court based on income and custody.  Typically, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent in order to ensure the child’s needs are met.

Do mothers have to pay child support?

Massachusetts courts look at a variety of factors to determine whether or not child support should be awarded and to whom, as well as how much support should be awarded.  These factors include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Primary custody or joint custody
  • Parental incomes
  • Day care expenses
  • Healthcare expenses
  • Number of children
  • Other child support obligations

Do I have to pay child support if I don’t work?

In Massachusetts, the courts expect every parent to provide financial support for their child regardless of employment.  Child Support guidelines issued by the state, sets a minimum child support amount of $80.00 per month. However, it is extremely rare for a judge to order a minimum child support amount.

What should I do if I think my child’s parent is working “under the table?”

Similar to hidden assets, unreported income, especially cash, is difficult to identify without extensive discovery.  If you suspect your child’s parent is hiding income, an attorney can help you locate and report these funds in order to obtain the rightful amount of child support.

What should I do if my child’s father/mother won’t get a job?

If a parent refuses to seek work, the court can issue an attribution of income.  When attributing income, a judge will base child support amounts on the income the parent should be earning.

How much child support should I get?

Child support is calculated using the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines worksheet (https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2017/11/20/cjd304-worksheet-child-support-guidelines-final.pdf). If you are unable to provide any of the amounts that are included on the worksheet, the discovery process during the case will supply the necessary information.

How do I ask the court for child support?

There are several cases that involve requesting child support depending on your circumstances:

  • Complaint for Divorce — for married couples with children
  • Complaint for Support — for unmarried parents with children
  • Complaint for Modification — for parents with a current child support order already in place
  • Complaint for Separate Support — for married couples with children who do not wish to file for divorce

How do I change the amount of child support I pay or receive?

A Complaint for Modification can be filed when a substantial change in circumstances has occurred.

Do Courts ever order less support than the child support guidelines worksheet amount?

Rarely does the court order an amount of child support less than what is suggested by the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.  However, a judge will consider other ways you are providing support such as payment of educational costs or high expenses involving visitation when determining the amount to be paid in child support.

What if I can’t afford to pay the child support?

If you experience a loss or change of income, it is necessary to file a Complaint for Modification.  Without it, the court will enforce the terms of the child support orders.

What if I get a second job or overtime?

If you take on a second job or work overtime once the child support order is issued, courts can exclude the extra income from their calculations.  However, if you are earning overtime or working a second job before the child support case is filed, those earnings can be included in the child support calculations.

What type of income is included in the child support calculation?

Any and every type of financial income is included when calculating child support.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Earned income
  • Wages
  • Commissions
  • Tips
  • Bonuses
  • Rental income
  • Lottery winnings
  • Insurance payouts
  • Gambling income
  • Dividends
  • Capital gains

Does my ex have to provide his/her income information to me?

If a court order requires income information, the parent’s income must be produced.  If the case has not yet been filed, a parent does not have to provide information regarding income.

Are child support and visitation time related?

Child support and visitation are not one in the same.  Failing to pay child support has no effect on visitation rights.  In terms of child support calculations, however, the court can take into account how much time the child spends with each parent.  Support costs could be altered based on the amount of time the child is with each parent.

When does child support end?

The following applies to Massachusetts standards regarding the length of child support:

  • Child support lasts to at least age 18, but continues to age 21 if the child is dependent on a parent.

Example:

      • If the child turns 18 and enters the military or gets married, child support will end.
      • If the child is living at home and works part time, child support goes until 21.
  • Child support continues to age 23 if the child is attending college full time.

Can I handle my modification case on my own?

Absolutely.  A Complaint of Modification case can be handled without an attorney.  Keep in mind, however, that the case must be correctly presented.  If you make a mistake, you cannot undo the Judgement of the Court without a substantial change in circumstances.