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How the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Define “Parenting Time” as a Basis of Support Obligations

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2016 | Child Custody, Child CustodyChild Support, Firm News

The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, effective as of August 1, 2013,
are in place to minimize the impact of parents’ separation on the
child/ren’s lifestyle and to promote joint parental responsibility
in the raising of minor children. Child support payments under the Guidelines
are based on a number of factors, including parental income, parenting
time, tax exemptions, child care costs, insurance coverage costs, and
the age of the children.

The focus of today’s post is how parenting time affects the calculation
of a child support amount under the guidelines. To calculate, the parties’
gross incomes, as described in last week’s post[CF1], are entered into the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Calculator
using one of the four methods described below, as determined by the amount
of time the child/ren spend with each parent.

Primary Residence with One Parent, One-Third Parenting Time with Other Parent

The basic guidelines are based on the presumption that the child/ren will
primarily live with one parent, and then live with the other parent for
about one-third of the time. The parent with the one-third parenting time
is responsible for paying child support to the parent with whom the children
share a primary residence, and the calculation is simple. Enter the parties’
incomes into the calculator, with the primary residential parent as the
Recipient and the one-third parenting time as the Payor, adjust the remaining
fields as appropriate, and the resulting number is what the Payor owes
to the Recipient. However, if the children are with the non-residential
parent for less than one-third of the time, then the Courts, at their
discretion, may increase the non-residential parent’s support obligation
to be paid to the residential parent.

Equal Parenting Time for Both Parents

When parents equally share the parenting responsibility for the child/ren,
then the calculation is done differently. First, the calculation is completed
with one parent as the recipient and the other as payor. Then, the calculation
is reversed, so that the original payor is now the recipient and the recipient
is now the payor. The parent with the higher support obligation based
on that calculation then pays the difference between the two obligations
to the parent with the lower support obligation.

Primary Residence with One Parent, One-Third to 50% Parenting Time with
Other Parent

When a parent has primary physical custody, and the other parent has parenting
time between one-third and 50% of the time, the calculation of support
is run twice. First, the calculation is based on the parent with primary/majority
residence as the recipient. Then a second calculation is done as if the
parties equally shared parenting time, as described above. This second
calculation is averaged with the first calculation, and that average is
the amount of support that the non-residential parent pays to the residential parent.

Multiple Children, Each Parent Providing Primary Residence for One or More Children

If the parents have multiple children, and each parent provides a primary
residence for one or more of the children, then the guidelines are again
calculated twice. First, the guidelines are run with one parent as the
recipient of support payments based on the number of children in his/her
care. Then, the guidelines are run with the second parent as the recipient
based on the number of children in his/her care. The parent that owes
the lower support payment based on these two calculations is paid the
difference between the two calculations by the other parent.

[CF1]Was assuming it made more sense for Lianne’s post re: income to be
posted first?