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Can the judge order an amount of child support different from the Child Support Guidelines amount?

Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp
Reviewed December 2017

The judge can order a different amount of child support from the amount on the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. The different amount is called a “deviation” from the Guidelines.

When can the judge order a different amount?

The judge can order a deviation from the amount on the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet in any of these situations:

For Example

Peter is Sam's son. He is 11 and he lives with Sam. Sam works at night to make enough money to support himself and Peter. Sam never asked for child support.
Somebody called DCF and reported that Sam leaves Peter all alone until late at night. DCF has to look into the report. While they are looking into it, they take Peter away and put him in foster care.

The Worksheet amount for child support is the minimum order, $25. Sam asks the court to deviate from the $25 and order $100 even though Peter is not living at home right now. With this deviation from the Worksheet amount, Sam may not have to work such long hours, or he could pay a sitter, so Peter can move back home.

  1. The parents agree to a different amount and the judge approves their agreement. The judge will only approve agreements that are reasonable and fair.
  2. Your child has costly special needs that are ongoing.
  3. Your child is gifted and supporting their talent costs a lot.
  4. Your child has costly extraordinary mental, physical, or developmental needs that are ongoing.
  5. You or the other parent has costly extraordinary mental, physical, or developmental needs that are ongoing.
  6. You or the other parent has extraordinary expenses for health care coverage.
  7. You or the other parent has extraordinary travel or other expenses connected to parenting.
  8. You or the other parent is paying too much for child care compared to your income.
  9. You or the other parent spends a lot less than 1/3 of your parenting time with your children.
  10. The payor is in jail and does not have enough money or assets to pay support.
  11. Paying the Worksheet amount leaves you without enough money to support yourself. This can happen if you have a very low income.
  12. Applying the Guidelines results in:
    • a huge difference between the 2 parents' standards of living, and
    • one household is left with too little of their “combined available income”.
  13. Applying the Guidelines makes it hard for you and your child to be reunited if the Department of Children and Families (DCF) removed your child temporarily..
  14. Applying the Guidelines results in an order that is unfair, inappropriate, or not in the child’s best interest.

What do judges do if they deviate from the Guidelines?

If judges deviate from the Guidelines, they must fill out and sign the Deviation section of a court form called “Findings and Determinations for Child Support and Post-Secondary Education.“ On the form the judge writes down the reasons for the deviation. Both parents get a copy.

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