Even if parents have joint physical custody, child support can still be ordered. This is because the purpose of child support is to ensure the children are adequately provided for regardless of where they reside.
The belief is that the children have a right to benefit from the income of both their parents in the same way that the children would have if their parents stayed together.
Parents often assume that if they spend an equal amount of time with their children, then they will have equal child related expenses, and as a result, child support is not needed.
However, the Massachusetts child support guidelines consider the relative income of the parents, in addition to certain expenses associated with raising the children.
Massachusetts child support law says that shared custody does not eliminate the responsibility to pay child support. Similarly, a joint custody arrangement will not automatically reduce the payment because in most situations, the children will still spend more time in one parent's home than the other. If children spend more time with one parent, that parent is calculated as the recipient.
A true 50-50 division of time between households is less common, and is usually ordered as a result of an agreement between the parents. When it occurs, the judge can consider the equal amount of time spent with the children. In this special circumstance, the amount of child support can be calculated twice: first, with one parent as the recipient, then with the other parent as the recipient. The higher income parent would then pay the difference between the two numbers to the lower income parent.
However, the judge is not required to complete the dual calculations. If one parent earns substantially more than the other, a judge is not likely to consider the amount of time spent with the children. The higher income parent is likely to be ordered to pay the standard amount of child support, regardless of whether equal time is spent with the children.
Sometimes parents find that the amount of time they are able to spend with their children is based on their lifestyles: the distance between the parents' households; where the children go to school; where the parents work; what hours the parents work; and the children's extracurricular activities. As time passes, circumstances change, and the amount of time children spend with each parent may also change.
Whether you pay or receive child support, you should periodically review the court order to ensure that it accurately reflects where your children spend their time. Depending on the changes, a child support modification may be appropriate.
Contact Attorney Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation to assess whether there has been a material change in circumstances that warrants reconsideration of child support.