Divorce & Family Law: September 2019 Archives

What "Counts" as Income for the Purposes of a Child Support Order?

In Massachusetts, the amount of weekly child support to be paid by a parent is calculated by relying on the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, which are published by the Executive Office of the Massachusetts Trial Court and updated every three years. Although it is a simple proposition to say that child support orders are largely based on the parents' respective incomes, it is important to understand what is included as "income" by the Probate and Family Court in determining a child support obligation.  The Guidelines themselves take the broadest possible approach to defining income, stating that "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."  The Guidelines go on to list 29 different types of income which are presumptively included in a parent's income for child support purposes, including, among other items, salaries, wages, overtime, tips, commissions, severance pay, royalties, interest and dividends, bonuses, certain government benefits, workers' compensation, distributions from trusts, pension and annuity income, capital gains, lottery or gambling winnings, prizes and awards, and rental income.

Supreme Judicial Court signals that it may become more difficult for primary custodial parents to move children out of the Commonwealth

In Massachusetts, petitions for the removal or relocation of a child from the Commonwealth are evaluated under one of two legal analyses, depending on whether one parent has sole/primary custody or the parents share physical custody. Where one parent has primary physical custody of the child(ren) a judge will determine whether there is cause shown to permit relocation by applying the "real advantage" analysis first set forth in the case of Yannas v. Frondistou-Yannas.The interests of the custodial parent weigh heavily in the real advantage test, as a custodial parent will be permitted to relocate if the move offers a genuine, recognizable advantage to that parent and is consistent with the child's best interests.

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