Child support that you are legally required to pay to children who do not live in your home is non-countable under the gross income test, and is a deduction in determining net income. 106 C.M.R. § 363.230(O). Payments you make for child support are non-countable only if you have a court order, administrative order, or legally enforceable separation agreement that says you must pay this amount. 106 C.M.R. §§ 361.610(J), 364.400(E). Unfortunately, you cannot claim payments you voluntarily make without a court order or legal agreement. And you cannot claim any alimony payments even if court ordered or in divorce agreement.
What child support payments are allowed as a deduction?
You can claim as an income deduction the payments you make directly to the custodial parent, to a court, or the Department of Revenue (DOR). You can claim child support paid directly from your Unemployment Insurance, Workers Comp, or other income source.
You can also claim legally required payments for health insurance, required for past child support (arrearages), as well as any third party payments. This includes payments to a landlord, utility company, or tuition payments to a school for the needs of the child. 106 C.M.R. § 364.400(E).
How does DTA calculate my SNAP with child support I pay out?
Legally obligated child support you pay through earned or unearned income does not count for the gross earnings test. 106 C.M.R. § 363.230(O). If you pass the gross earnings test, and you pay child support from earned income, the amount you pay for child support is added back into your gross income in order to increase the allowed 20% income disregard.
For example: John earns $2,080/month gross ($12.hr x 40 hours x 4.333). He pays $500/month court-ordered child support. John applied for SNAP benefits as a single person. In measuring his income against the 200% gross income test, DTA should ignore the $500 child support to determine his gross income at $1,580 – well below the 200% gross income test of $2,010 for 1 person.
In calculating John’s SNAP, DTA should calculate the 20% earnings deduction off the higher $2,080 gross income amount to give John a $416/month earned income deduction. If DTA calculated the 20% earnings deduction after child support paid, John would get only $316 earnings deduction. In calculating John’s preliminary net income, DTA should subtract both the $500 child support and $416 (20% earned income deduction).
Proof of child support payments
There are two factors you need to verify – the amount you pay and your legal obligation to make child support payments.
You can verify the amount you pay with documents such as cancelled checks, pay stubs, UI withholding statements, or a statement from the custodial parent proving you make payments. If a portion of your unemployment compensation is withheld, you will need a statement explaining why from the Department of Unemployment Assistance.
To verify your legal obligation to pay the child support, you need to show a court or administrative order or other legal document showing you have this obligation. 106 C.M.R. §§ 361.610(J), 364.400(E).
The amount of child support you pay will be averaged over a three month period to determine an average monthly deduction, unless you have been paying support for less than three months. 106 C.M.R. § 364.410(D)
DTA Policy Guidance:
- Payments from UI benefits for child support are not countable as income to UI claimant as long as claimant has legal obligation to support established. Transitions Hotline Q&A (Dec. 2005).