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.
The Guidelines do not, however, apply in every family law case. By their terms, the assume a traditional parenting plan in which the children spend substantially more time with one parent than with the other (i.e., weekdays and alternating weekends with one parent and alternating weekends with the other parent). They become less relevant the more the parenting plan approaches a shared arrangement in which the children spend nearly equal time with both parents or a split arrangement in which some children live with one parent and others live with the other parent.
The question often arises about what constitutes income for the purposes of the Guidelines. Obviously, the facts of a particular case will determine the answer, but the Guidelines (and the courts which interpret them) take a very broad view of income.
Finally, it is important to note that child support (unlike alimony, or spousal support) is income tax neutral. That is, parents paying child support may not deduct it from their gross incomes for income tax purposes and parents receiving child support do not have to claim it as as income for those purposes.