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Determining child support in Massachusetts

According to Massachusetts state law, all parents are responsible for supporting their children.
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    February 23, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Determining child support in Massachusetts

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The safety, stability and well-being of a child are of the utmost importance to parents. In the event a family is torn apart, a heated and highly emotional battle over the financial support of the child may ensue. Most people are aware that one parent may have to pay child support when the parents do not live together. There are a wide range of factors that must be considered and understood to ensure that parents receive the child support they deserve.

Who must pay child support?

According to Massachusetts state law, all parents are responsible for supporting their children. Generally, the custodial parent, or the parent with whom the child lives, is entitled to receive support payments from the non-custodial parent. The child usually must be under 21 years of age, if the child is in high school or lives with the custodial parent and remains principally dependent on the parents for support, or until the age of 23 years if the child is enrolled in an undergraduate program full time, or graduates, whichever comes first. If a parent is contributing financially to the cost of college, then it may be appropriate to reduce or eliminate the payment of child support. It is important to remember that the custodial parent can receive support whether or not the biological parents were married.

Massachusetts procedure for receiving child support

The first step towards receiving child support is to file a complaint with the Massachusetts court system. Once the complaint is filed with the Probate and Family Court, the other parent will be served with a summons mandating that he or she file an answer to the complaint.

Once the answer has been filed, the process of the child support proceedings will begin. In determining the amount of support that the filing parent is entitled to, the court will rely on the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, a worksheet provided by the state. The guidelines consider factors such as the gross income of the non-custodial parent, as well as the number of children for whom support is owed. After applying the guidelines and hearing the arguments made by all parties involved, the court will likely issue a child support order. This order will describe in detail the amount to which the custodial parent is entitled.

Some factors that the court considers in deviating from the child support guidelines include the amount of parenting time each parent spends with the children each week or month. The MA guidelines assume a 2/3%-1/3% split of time between the parties. In other words, if the primary caretaker has the children 2/3 of the parenting time, then the presumptive child support guideline amount will apply. However, if the parenting time is divided equally/close to equal, then it can be argued that the child support guidelines should be calculated both ways -- with both parents as the recipient and the higher wage earner paying the lower wage earner the difference in the two amounts. This analysis is fact driven and each case is reviewed differently by a judge, so it is important that you seek the advice of legal counsel to analyze the facts of each case and how these facts may be reviewed by the judge assigned to your case.

Also, the designation of a parent as the primary or physical custodial parent or both parents having joint physical custody affects how the parents will be responsible for the children's uninsured and unreimbursed medical and dental expenses. If a parent is designated the primary/physical custodial parent, then he/she is responsible for the first $250.00 annually of the children's uninsured, unreimbursed medical and dental expenses.

Ensuring a prosperous future for the child

Given the huge effect child support can have on the life of the child involved, it is imperative that parents are thorough and rational with their demands. Unfortunately, given the highly emotional nature of such issues, parents may not be able to fully articulate their ideas. If you are in the process of child support negotiations, or are considering making changes to a child support agreement, contact an experienced family law attorney who can discuss available options with you. Attorneys experienced in child support can help ensure that a child will receive the financial assistance he or she deserves.

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