The following is provided for informational purposes only. It is not meant to be comprehensive or to be interpreted as legal advice. It also shall not be interpreted in such a manner as to form an attorney-client relationship. For such advice, consult an experienced Family Law attorney.
In determining child support, the Massachusetts courts utilize child support guidelines, updated as of August 1, 2013. The guidelines are presumed to apply in all child support cases. The incomes of the parties, childcare expenses necessary for the custodial parent to maintain employment, the cost of health insurance and any previous child support orders of the non-custodial parent are all factors in the computation of the guideline amount.
However, judges have considerable discretion under the guidelines, and the exercise of this discretion may result in a range of proposed orders. In practice, the award of child support is often intertwined with other factors such as alimony, maintaining the marital home, and tax considerations. In contrast to alimony, child support is not taxable to the recipient nor is it the deductible by the payor. Arguments focusing on particularly heavy mortgage payments, daycare expenses and/or medical expenses may also prove to be particularly effective in front of many judges in obtaining child support orders above those of "straight" guidelines. Additionally, parties should consider challenging the credibility of the opposition's financial statement.
It also should be noted that the courts and parties may also allocate the income tax exemption associated with a child(ren) to either of the parents and any child care exemptions should also be considered. Generally, the higher the child support paid by the non-custodial parent the more likely the court is to award to that parent some or all of the exemptions. Conversely, the courts are unlikely to give the non-custodial parent any exemptions when only a small amount of child support is being paid (usually less than $ 125 - $ 150 per week). See Worksheet for Child Support, Worksheet for Child Support Instructions and Child Support Guidelines Chart.
Although the courts rarely order less than guidelines, sometimes an effective argument can be made in situations where there are multiple support orders, split physical custody of the child(ren), or the child spends substantial time away from the residence of the custodial parent (usually college).