Unless you've gone through a Family Court case of your own, chances are you aren't very familiar with the process. Movies and TV shows and some occasional bits of wisdom gleaned from friends may be of how things work. One area that might be especially confusing is that of child support. Many people believe child support is treated like alimony or property division, and can be fought over until a mutually agreeable number is decided upon. However, the reality is very different.
In the case, Morales v. Morales, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, clarified the standard by which child support may be modified. The Court stated that child support modification does not require a finding of a material change of circumstances. Rather, if there is an inconsistency between the amount of the existing order and the amount that would result from application of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, the Court must consider the modification request. When such an inconsistency exists, the Court may not simply dismiss the complaint for modification, even if the evidence does not demonstrate a material change of circumstances.
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?
One of the complaints we hear most often is "the other parent doesn't spend my child support payments on the child." We certainly understand that it can be very frustrating for non-custodial parents to pay child support each and every month. This is particularly true if (a) the amount of money paid is significant, (b) it impacts the payor's budget in a noticeable way, and/or (c) you disagree with the other parent's spending habits.
The Massachusetts child support statute imposes a duty of child support on both the husband and wife. Because the support obligation falls equally on the custodial and non-custodial parent, the income of a second spouse may be considered in calculating the obligor's ability to pay alimony or child support.
One order, one court with exclusive jurisdiction. That is the core concept of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act ("UIFSA"), M.G.L. c. 209D. UIFSA seeks to solve the problem of conflicting support orders issued by courts in different jurisdictions. UIFSA establishes the procedural framework for the establishment, enforcement and modifications of child support and spousal support orders.
The definition of income in the Massachusetts Child Support Guide lines (guidelines) is broad and includes twenty-nine specifically identified sources of income. For purposes of these guidelines, income is defined as gross income from whatever source regardless of whether that income is recognized by the Internal Revenue Code or reported to the Internal Revenue Service or State Department of Revenue or other taxing authority. Those sources include, but are not limited to, the following: