Child Support in Massachusetts
All parents are responsible for the support of their children. In the fulfillment of this responsibility, a divorced parent who does not live with the child usually makes fixed regular payments to the other parent, known as child support. The parent who receives payment can use these funds as he or she sees fit (unless the child’s needs are being neglected). If the paying parent provides the child with gifts, transportation, clothes or other voluntary items, these are not considered child support.
The amount of child support can be agreed upon by the parents and entered by the court as an order. Otherwise, it is usually determined with the aid of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. Some of the factors considered are the income of each parent, number and age of children, child care costs and the child’s health insurance coverage, and extraordinary expenses (such as travel for visitation). The court may also determine the amount based on how much the person could be earning rather than on actual income, if it feels that the person is not making a reasonable effort to earn more.
Payments are usually made through “income assignment,” in which child support is deducted from the parent’s paycheck and sent it to the DOR, which in turn sends it on to the custodial parent. This procedure may be waived by mutual agreement or a judge’s order. If you lose your job, you may request a reduction in your child support by filing a complaint for modification, and scheduling the matter for a hearing before the Probate Court judge.
If a parent fails to make his or her child support payments, the other parent may file a complaint for contempt with the probate court. Some parents try to use the children as a weapon, hindering visitation when the other is defaulting on payments. This should be avoided and it is grounds for a contempt of court action. There is no connection between paying child support and visitation rights. Paying child support does not automatically entitle a person to have visitation rights with the child, and failure to pay does not cancel these rights. Child support stops when the child turns 18,but can continue until age 23 if the child resides with their parent and is dependent upon that parent for support, or is a full time student in a college or other post secondary educational program.