Calculating Child Support in Massachusetts

In many cases, a parent who is granted primary physical custody of a child (the child lives with them) is entitled to child support from the non-custodial parent. The Guidelines worksheet is used to calculate different amounts of support based on different parenting schedules.

Under the 2013 Child Support Guidelines, the non-custodial parent who sees their children (or child) 50% of the time will most likely pay a lessor amount than if they saw their children less than 33% of the time. Many judges, however, have expressed their concern about modifying child support based on differences in the parenting schedule.  Most judges do not want to make evaluations based on how many days and hours a parent spent with the children. In addition, many judges take a dim view of either parent (custodial or non-custodial) attempting to influence the parenting schedule with the hope that it will impact child support payments.

In the state of Massachusetts, the monetary amount and duration of child support is determined by the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines offer a worksheet that one can use to calculate the amount of support due, depending on a number of factors, including, but not limited to

  • Gross income earned by each party
  • Child care costs
  • Health insurance costs
  • The number of children
  • The parenting schedule

Quite often, the worksheet is used directly by the court to calculate child support. The Guidelines also offer some of the reasoning behind the worksheet. And it helps to explain why a a court may decide not to follow the worksheet calculation to make a monetary ruling.

Considerations in Determining Child Support 

The nuts and bolts: The Guidelines worksheet provides areas for both parties to report their gross incomes and a short list of child-related costs: child care costs, medical insurance costs, and dental and vision insurance costs.

Within this list of categories, there may be some complex items to consider. These include:

A parent who is self-employed generally exerts a great deal of control over his or her “tax reported” gross income. This is different than an employee (who receives a W-2 form)  whose income reporting is controlled by an employer. Those who are self-employed parents can often steer their W-2 income and taxable business income on year-to-year basis. The single most important factor under the Guidelines is “gross income”.

In addition, the high cost of medical insurance routinely distorts child support calculations. Finally, the 2013 Guidelines only applies to the first $250,000 in combined gross income earned by the parties. A judge, however, use their discretion on income exceeding $250,000 per year.

2013 Child Support Guidelines

Effective as of August 1, 2013