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How to Calculate Your Child Support

Under Massachusetts law, parents who are divorced or separated must continue to support their children. In Massachusetts, a parent’s child support obligation is calculated based upon the Child Support Guidelines. The Child Support Guidelines are a set of rules that dictate how to calculate a parent’s child support obligation, and what income must be included in the calculation of child support.

The Child Support Guidelines often compare the respective financial circumstances of each parent and also look at the standard of living the child(ren) enjoyed while the parents were still married. In calculating child support, the court considers all sources of income, including salaries, wages, overtime, bonus, income from self-employment, commissions, interest and dividends, disability benefits, social security benefits, unemployment benefits, and many other sources. The court may even impute income to a parent, if the court believes that the parent is not working or earning income to his or her fullest ability.

A parent’s child support obligation is calculated by adding the combined gross incomes of the recipient parent and the payor parent, less any child care, health insurance, dental and vision insurance, and other child support obligations already paid. This combined gross income is then multiplied by a factor based upon the number of children in the family. The product of the parents’ gross income multiplied by the pre-determined factor based upon the number of children in the family is the combined child support obligation of the parents. Each parent’s child support obligation is then factored on a pro-rata share based upon their gross incomes.

Even in cases where a payor parent has no income, they can be ordered to pay a state-mandated minimum order of $80.00 per month (or $18.46 per week). In cases where the parents’ combined income exceeds $250,000.00, the court is not obligated to order a child support obligation above the first $250,000.00, but has the discretion to do so.

In cases in which the child(ren) are residing with both parents, then the child support guidelines must be run with as if each parent was the payor parent, and the parent with the larger obligation must pay the difference in the two Child Support Guidelines amounts.

By statute, a parent’s child support obligation continues through until a child is at least 18 years old. However, a parent’s child support obligation can continue up until the child attains the age of 23, if the child is still predominantly dependent upon the custodial parent and is enrolled full-time in college.

A parent’s child support obligation can be modified every 3 years, or upon a showing of a material and substantial change of circumstances. A child support obligation may be modified by filing a Complaint for Modification with the court.

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