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Child Support in Massachusetts

The 2013 child support (CS) formula in Massachusetts continues to yield one of the higher CS orders around. The new guidelines are expected to reduce child support orders by about 10%. Experience will show if this is true.

Here are the new features:

  • Parenting Time Counts. The 2013 law takes into account the amount of time a child spends with each parent. It distinguishes three parenting time ratios 67:33, 50:50 and in between. The more time the payor of child support spends with the children, the lower the child support order.
    If the parenting time ratio is -
    (a) 67:33 - child support is whatever the worksheet indicates
    (b) 50:50 - child support is the difference between the child support indicated for each parent, to be paid by the higher earner to the lower earner
    (c) When one parent has the kids more than 33% of the time and the other more than 50% of the time, it gets complicated. In this circumstance child support is the average of calculations (a) and (b) above.

  • Number of Children. When parents have more than one child, the increase in child support compared to one child, is a little greater under the 2013 formula: up by 25% for 2 children, up by 38% for three children, and so on.

  • Combined Incomes exceeding 250k. The new Child support formula also applies to $250,000 maximum combined income of the parents, as it did before. However, in all events you plug in the full combined incomes, even if they exceed $250,000. The worksheet does the calculation only on $250,000, and figures the amount in excess of $250,000 that was not included in the calculation. You can then plug in these excess numbers into the worksheet again and figure additional child support in a second iteration. This additional amount is not presumptive and can be subject to the discretion of the court and/or the discretion of the parties in mediation.

The following features are unchanged:

  • The calculation takes into account up to $250,000 of combined gross personal incomes of the parents.
  • The support order is insensitive to the income of the recipient. This means that the child support goes down very little as the recipient's income grows.

  • Health care premiums and child care costs are deducted from the parents' respective incomes. However, deducting these costs yields unanticipated outcomes to the recipient. Read Dr. Thomson's article on this subject.

  • The formula disregards the children's age.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does child support pay for?
    Child support pays for all routine expenses - including food, clothes, part payment for the house, utilities and routine school expenses.

  • What does child support not pay for?
    Extracurricular activities, unsecured health care expenses and summer camp are not included in child support and are usually shared in some fashion by the parents.

  • Do we have any discretion in determining child support?
    The expectation is that biological or adoptive parents support their children. However, there is flexibility, depending on income and on the amount of time the children spend with each parent. If the incomes are roughly equal and the care is roughly equal, parties can opt for cost sharing rather than child support. There are other mitigating circumstances, such as college payments.

  • Could I be forced to pay child support for someone else's child?
    (or, who is considered the legal father in Massachusetts)

    In Massachusetts, a person who is married to the mother within 300 days of the birth of the child is considered the legal parent of the child even if he is not the biological parent. This is a presumption that can be overcome with a paternity test. However, even if the paternity test proves that the husband is not the biological father, this does not necessarily mean he is not considered the legal father. Someone who acts like a parent for a period of time long enough for the child to be attached to them as a parent has certain rights and obligations. The best interest of the child require that a "de-facto" parent continue to be involved in their life (i.e. have custody and visitation rights) and in some cases also pay child support.

    Even absent a marriage, if a father signs a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity and is added to the Birth Certificate, then they are presumed to be the Father. After one year passes it becomes almost impossible to undo this legal acknowledgement of parentage. In the case of a faked paternity test or other fraud it might be possible to have a Court undo the acknowledgement even after the one year period. However, in many cases, as was in a CA case, the father who has been involved in the child's life would be considered a "de-facto" parent anyway.

    In summary, you don't have be genetically related to a child to be a good parent and in some circumstances you needn't be the biological father to be obliged to pay child support.

    Source for this text:

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