Tips for Veterans on How to Fill Out the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet for Probate and Family Court
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The presumptive amount of child support in Massachusetts is calculated using the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. That means that the Court will use the amount from the Guidelines Worksheet unless there is a strong reason to use a higher or lower amount. This Worksheet takes into consideration the current parenting time arrangement, the children’s ages, both parents’ weekly incomes, and certain expenses (such as childcare and health insurance) paid by either parent. The form also takes into consideration other child support obligations, including support of a child that lives with a parent or that is paid voluntarily without a court order.
MassLegalHelp has detailed instructions on how to complete a Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Worksheet available here. This form needs to be submitted to the Court on blue paper whenever you are in court on a case where child support is at issue. If you complete the form online or on a computer, it should automatically calculate the numbers for you which is recommended since the calculations can be complicated. Otherwise, you will need to do the calculations by hand.
If you are a veteran, there are some additional things you should keep in mind when completing a child support worksheet:
Section 2. Income
Most income will count for the purposes of determining child support. However, income or benefits you receive based on financial need does not count. That means when enter your income in the Worksheet, you should include income from all sources EXCEPT:
- MGL Chapter 115 Veterans’ Benefits;
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- VA Supportive Housing (VASH), Section 8, or other non-cash assistance based on need;
- VA Non Service-Connected Pension.
These benefits are needs-based, which the Worksheet will sometimes refer to as means-tested. Means tested benefits are excluded under the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, Section I. Therefore the amount received from these benefits should not be included as income for the purposes of calculating child support. However, you are still required to report all income to the court even if it does not count for child support purposes, so you should still include these benefits on your financial statement. See VLS’s tips for Filling Out a Financial Statement here.
Whether or not income is countable for child support purposes is separate from whether or not the other parent or the Department of Revenue can take it directly from the source through a process called garnishment. Although most veteran-specific sources of income count as a resource with which to pay child support, not all of them may be garnished or seized to pay a support order. The following income sources CANNOT be seized:
- MGL Chapter 115 Benefits;
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- VA Non Service-Connected Pension; and
- VA Compensated Work Therapy benefits.
Most other veteran specific sources of income can be garnished or assigned in order to pay child support. In some limited circumstances, VA Service Connected Disability Compensation may be directly apportioned to a custodial parent if the parent to pay support is not fulfilling their support obligations. To avoid a VA apportionment, it is best to make your child support payments regularly and on-time whenever possible.
If you are on Social Security and your child may receive a benefit called a dependency benefit. This benefit is usually paid to the parent with primary custody/the parent the child lives with the majority of the time. If your child is receiving this benefit based on your Social Security, you are entitled to receive credit for those payments under a court case called Rosenberg. If you are on Social Security make sure to bring up the dependency benefit with the court or the Department of Revenue so that you can get credit for these payments.
Even though some sources of income cannot be seized to pay support, it is not a good idea not to pay support. If you cannot make payments in full, it is better to pay whatever you can, even if it is a small amount. This will help to show the court that you recognize that you are financially responsible for your child(ren) even if you are struggling yourself.
The Department of Revenue is the agency responsible, for enforcing child support in Massachusetts, and it has many enforcement powers it can use to enforce a child support order including suspending your drivers’ license and professional license, taking money directly from your bank account, intercepting your tax refund, or even requesting jail time.
If you have changes in your income, like losing a job or going on to a needs-based benefit, it is almost always a good idea to return to court and ask the court for a modification of your support. Once a child support payment is past due, it is very difficult to change the amount you owe so it is important not to get behind. If you need to modify your support order, you should contact VLS or another attorney to see if they can help you with this process. The Department of Revenue can also help you with a modification.