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How do judges decide how much child support to order?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed September 2021

Judges use the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet to figure out how much child support to order.

To complete a Worksheet you and the judge need to know:

  • The number and ages of children covered by the order,
  • Each parent’s income,
    including Social Security dependency benefit, and
  • Certain expenses of each parent.

On the Worksheet each parent puts:

  • their “gross weekly income,”
  • their child care expenses,
  • the amount they pay for health care coverage,
  • the amounts they pay for dental and vision insurance,
  • the amounts they pay to support children or spouses not involved in the case, and
  • the number of children the child support order will cover.

The Worksheet helps parents and judges do the math the Guidelines describe.

The Worksheet calculates the amount of income each parent has for supporting your children and a basic amount of child support.

The Worksheet adjusts the basic amount so that:

  • If the Recipient is paying a larger share of child and health care, the Worksheet gives them a credit and raises the child support amount.
  • If the Payor is paying a larger share of child and health care, the Worksheet gives them a credit and lowers the child support amount.

The Worksheet calls the basic child support amount “Payor’s share of support.” The parent who gets the child support is called the “Recipient,” and the parent who pays the child support is called the “Payor.”

To fill out the Worksheet you need to have income and expense information for both parents. Use the other parent’s Financial Statement if you have it. If you do not know the other parent’s information, put in what you think it is.

Until October 4, 2021 the minimum child support order is $25 a week.

On October 4, 2021 the minimum child support changes to $12 a week.

The Child Support Guidelines Worksheet is changing October 4, 2021.

You can get the worksheets for 2018 and 2021 from the Probate and Family Court website.

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