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Can You Deviate From the Child Support Guidelines in Massachusetts?

If you've done some research, you probably know that child support in Massachusetts is calculated by using a set of guidelines prepared by state officials. These guidelines rely on a formula to balance income and expenses and then apportion the costs of raising the child fairly between the parents. However, the formula may not produce a number that suits your particular situation and/or the parents may want to mutually agree upon a different number from that calculated by the guidelines. If that happens, can you deviate from child support guidelines?

The short answer is "maybe". The guidelines are widely used and are designed to lead to more consistent child support awards, thus doing away with the risk of widely diverging results and unfair decisions. However, the guidelines were never intended to be hard and fast rules, and the Court will usually allow parents to alter the amount of child support if they can show a good enough reason exists to do so.

Deviation from the results of the guidelines can occur, but such deviations are seen as the exception rather than the rule.

Some examples of situations where deviations are allowed include:

  • a child has special needs or aptitudes
  • a child has extraordinary medical expenses or other expenses
  • a parent has extraordinary medical expenses
  • application of the Guidelines, particularly in low income cases, leaves a party without the ability to self support
  • payor is incarcerated, is likely to remain incarcerated for an additional 3 years and has insufficient financial resources to pay support
  • application of the guidelines would result in a gross disparity in the standard of living between the two households such that one household is left with an unreasonably low percentage of the combined available income.
  • a parent has extraordinary travel or other expenses related to parenting
  • application of the guidelines may adversely impact re-unification of a parent and child where the child has been temporarily removed from the household based upon allegation of neglect
  • absent deviation, application of the guidelines would lead to an order that is unjust, inappropriate or not in the best interests of the child, considering the Principles of the Guidelines. 

Finally, courts can also authorize a deviation if the two parents agree to it. Courts are allowed to deviate based on an agreement between the parties provided that the chosen deviation is reasonable and in the best interest of the child. Though some latitude is given to parents to work this out amongst themselves, parents are not allowed to waive child support altogether.

If you are paying child support or you are receiving child support payments and you have experienced a significant change in your financial circumstances or your children's needs have changed due to educational, health or other important reasons, Attorney Renee Lazar can assist you with modification of existing child support orders to protect your family's interests.

You may want to increase or reduce your child support obligations for a variety of reasons such as having necessary expenses that have not been accounted for or having a disability that affects your ability to seek or continue employment.

Perhaps you have not as yet finalized your divorce and are seeking to get child support while your divorce is pending. Whatever the case may be, call to get your situation evaluated by Attorney Renee Lazar who will help to ensure that your children obtain the support that they require. 

For your child support related issues, contact Attorney Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour consultation to evaluate your particular situation.

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Law Offices of Renee Lazar
4308 Thompson Farm
Bedford, MA 01730
Phone: 978-844-4095
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