Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Income: What's In and What's Out when Calculating Child Support?

In Massachusetts, the Child Support Guidelines define the income that can be used when calculating child support.  The list is exhaustive and as a starting point almost all income is considered with very few exceptions (both for the payor and recipient).   We've created this handy tool for reference when trying to remember this guideline:

What's In: 

In a recent case, Hoegen v. Hoegen, the Massachusetts Appeals Court indicated that even income from Restricted Stock Units that may have been waived in a property division should be included in the child support determination.  Here are some of the blog posts that beat us to an in depth look at that case:

The Appeals Court in the Hoegen case noted that even though RSUs are not included in the sources of income list, the catch-all at the end of the list is expansive: "any other form of income or compensation not specifically itemized above."  It's therefore, an easier question to ask what is NOT included in income when calculating child support in Massachusetts, because that's a pretty short list:

What's Out:

1.  The Guidelines specifically exclude mean-tested public assistance programs, such as SSDI and food-stamps; and

2. The Guidelines allow the court to exclude income from overtime or secondary job, but only after considering specific factors; and

3. Child Support received for the benefit of children from another relationship is generally excluded as a source of income as well.

What Else Matters:

Defining the income for calculating child support is only the first step.  There is a child support formula worksheet and guidelines that help determine how the formula applies in each case.  In many cases, even if income is included, it may not be obvious how much child support should result from that additional income.  For example, when the household income of the parties exceeds $250,000 there is discretion with the court on how to handle the excess income.  

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