How is child support determined?

As I’ve discussed previously on this blog, child support is a formula with a limited number of variables.  Your attorney, the Department of Revenue’s attorney, or the court will employ the formula. 

In Massachusetts, the first variable is weekly income.  The court needs to know the weekly income of the payor and the payee.  People with traditional employment can use their last three pay stubs and W-2s to prove the total income.  People who are self-employed should prepare for a bit of tension over their income, since opposing counsel might request their company’s books and accounts, a deposition of the bookkeeper, and tax documentation.  Beware that commissions, royalties, bonuses, dividends, veteran’s benefits, unemployment, pensions, rental income, and more count as income.

The next variable is weekly child care costs.  This figure must be the reasonable child care costs due to a party’s gainful employment.  In other words, a stay-at-home parent is probably not going to receive a credit for a weekly nanny, unless the attorneys can make an argument for a deviation from the regular child support formula.  This figure is then deducted from the gross income of the party who pays the child care.

Health insurance costs for the minor children are also deducted from the gross income of the party who pays health insurance.  The party who covers the health insurance should provide a print-out from their human resources department indicating the exact cost to cover the children.  This is not necessarily the amount the party pays.  Instead, it is the amount the party pays minus the amount the party would pay for an individual, non-family plan.  The party who covers insurance should similarly provide the figures for dental and vision insurance for the children.

The final variable is other child support obligations, which are only relevant where there is a legal obligation to pay child support.  To get credit for child support, you must have a standing order to pay.  Most likely, you will not receive a full credit for support where you are overpaying a support order, paying support to an emancipated child, or paying for a child whose support has never been adjudicated.