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How the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Define

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

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?

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