In Massachusetts, both parents have an obligation to support their child or children.
Massachusetts has Child Support Guidelines which apply to most matters related to the financial care of children, including divorce, paternity, modifications following a divorce or paternity action, and sometimes even guardianship or other types of family law matters. However, the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines are more than just a formula; there are nuances which may apply to your case and affect the outcome, such as remarriage and the support of subsequent children, extraordinary or special needs of children, self-employment, and commission or other irregular income.
The parenting plan, the income of each parent, child care costs, and the cost of health, dental, and vision insurance are all important factors in the Guidelines formula. The Guidelines are presumptive, so unless there are legitimate reasons to deviate from the Guidelines, the Guidelines figure will generally be what the payor parent must pay the recipient parent. The family court also has discretion to order parents to pay for a child’s uninsured medical and dental expenses and additional child-related expenses such as extracurricular activities and college education.
The Guidelines do not apply when families reach certain joint income levels that are defined by the Guidelines themselves; when that happens, there are other ways of looking at child support besides the Guidelines. The Guidelines also do not preclude parties looking at support in ways that are most tax advantageous to the family. Sometimes the use of a financial professional is helpful in cases involving child support.
In Massachusetts a child is not automatically emancipated at age eighteen (18) or graduation from high school. If a child is enrolled in college, domiciled in a parent’s home, even if primarily living away at college, and is principally dependent on that parent for support, then the child is not emancipated until he/she graduates college or reaches age twenty-three (23), whichever comes first. If a child does not go to college, there are circumstances where child support may be payable until the child reaches age 21, if a child is still primarily residing with one or both parents and still principally dependent upon them for their care and maintenance.
Child support is not always a straight-forward formula.
We, at the family law firm of Levitt Family Law & Mediation, are experienced with Massachusetts child support matters and can provide you with the appropriate legal counsel as your family law attorney or as mediator to help you achieve resolution outside of court.