Massachusetts Child Support Laws

In Massachusetts, child support is governed by the Child Support Guidelines, the current version of which became effective in August 2013. The Guidelines take into account the following factors in determining child support: (1) the parents’ gross incomes from any and all sources, (2) the child care costs paid by either of the parents for the purpose of working, (3) the out-of-pocket cost paid by either of the parents for health (medical, dental, and vision) insurance coverage for themselves and/or the children, (4) any other support payments made by either of the parents, and (5) the number of dependent children involved in the case. You can use the Probate & Family Court’s Guidelines worksheet to calculate child support. [Read more…]

Health insurance for children in a family law case

Normally the parent providing medical, dental, and vision insurance for the dependent children before a family law case is initiated will be required to continue that coverage. If neither parent has such insurance, a determination will be made about which parent has the best coverage available at the least cost. In some circumstances, neither parent may be able to provide health insurance for the children and arrangements will have to be made to obtain coverage through a plan offered by the state.

It is important that you explain your family’s specific circumstances to an experienced family law attorney such as those at the Law Office of Frank Gaynor to explore fully and protect your legal rights. Please contact us to obtain advice pertinent to your particular situation.

Educational expenses for children in a family law case

In Massachusetts, parents can be required to contribute to the educational expenses of their dependent children. The allocation of college costs not covered by financial aid and a child’s own contribution is determined based on the financial resources available to each of the parents, taking into account any support being paid by either of them to the other.

Life insurance for children in a family law case

In Massachusetts, parents can be required to provide life insurance coverage for the benefit of their dependent children. In many instances, this will mean that existing policies will have to be maintained without change; in other cases, each parent would be well advised to take out a new policy on the life of the other to ensure continued financial support for the children if the other dies; by providing such coverage yourself, there can be no question whether or not such coverage will be in place when it is needed.

Income tax considerations associated with children in a family law case

Child support is income tax neutral (payments are not deductible by the parent making them or includible by the parent receiving them). There are, however, many other income tax considerations associated with dependent children in family law cases, including (1) filing status, (2) the earned income credit, (3) dependency exemptions, and (4) the child tax credit. Parents with whom dependent children spend more than one-half of their time are entitled for file as “head of household,” a more favorable filing status, and may be eligible for an earned income credit depending on their income and number of children living with them; these benefits are dictated by the law and cannot be changed. Dependency exemptions, on the other hand, can be allocated by agreement or court order; parents paying child support are often given the right to claim some or all of the children as dependents, thus reducing their taxable income, and possibly entitling them for to a child tax credit for any child who is under 17 years old.

Emancipation of children during a family law case

In family law cases, the parents’ financial obligations to their children end on their emancipation (becoming independent). As noted above, this is not the same thing as becoming an adult on attaining the age of 18. By statute, Massachusetts differentiates between (1) children who are under 18, (2) those who are between 18 and 21, and (3) those who are between 21 and 23. There is no question that children in the first group will be considered dependent and entitled to financial support from their parents. Children (young adults, legally) in the second group will be considered dependent if they are actually dependent on their parents for support, evidenced by such things as living with a parent because they are unable to support themselves financially. After attaining the age of 21, however, this dependence must be related to the pursuit of an education for children in the third group to be entitled to continued financial support from their parents.