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What is the child support deduction?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2020

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 allowed as a deduction in determining net income. 106 C.M.R. §363.230(O). Child support payments 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.

Allowable child support as a deduction

You can claim as a 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 DTA calculates the child support paid

Legally-obligated child support you pay 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.

Example

John earns $2,100/month gross and pays $500/month court-ordered child support. In measuring his income against the 200% gross income test, DTA should ignore the $500 child support to determine his gross income at $1,700 – well below the 200% gross income test of $2,082 for 1 person.

In calculating John’s SNAP, DTA should calculate the 20% earnings deduction off the higher $2,100 gross income amount to give John a $420/month earned income deduction. In calculating John’s preliminary net income, DTA should subtract both the $500 child support and $420 earned income deduction.

Proof of child support payments

There are two factors you need to verify to get this deduction– the amount you pay and your legal obligation to make child support payments.

  • The amount you pay can be verified with cancelled checks, pay stubs, Unemployment withholding statements, a statement from the custodial parent proving you make payments or proof from the Department of Revenue (DOR) if they are garnishing your wages. If a portion of your unemployment benefits are withheld, get a statement from the Department of Unemployment Assistance.
  • Your legal obligation to pay the child support can be verified through a court or administrative order, divorce decree, separation order or other legal document that shows your legal obligation. 106 C.M.R. §§361.610(J), 364.400(E).

In some situations one verification can prove both factors. For example, a “lockbox bill” or other verification from DOR may be acceptable proof of both things. If your Social Security benefits (RSDI) are garnished in order to pay for child support, a letter from the Social Security Administration stating the garnishment is for child support payments is proof of legal obligation and amount.

DTA Online Guide Sections:SNAP > Expenses and Deductions > Child Support Expenses > Child Support Expenses Deduction

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