Can a non-biological parent be required to pay child support?

Last week, this Massachusetts family law blog discussed the circumstances under which a grandparent may secure visitation or custody of his or her grandchild. In many cases, after a divorce the parents of a child share custody of that young person based on a court-approved schedule. In such arrangements, one parent is deemed the custodial parent for physical custody purposes and the other is deemed the non-custodial parent who generally has visitation rights.

Generally, a non-custodial parent is required to pay child support for the financial needs of raising a child. This is because the custodial parent expends many resources, including time, money, and energy, into the direct care of the child. Child support from the non-custodial parent can be used to balance the expenditure of resources provided by each parent.

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Court System website, a non-custodial parent can be required to pay child support. Generally, that parent must be proven to be the actual parent of the child; in some cases where paternity is not established, the first step in getting child support is determining that an individual has a parental relationship with a child. If paternity is proven, initiating a child support request can be somewhat more straightforward.

Adoption and other procedures can create paternal relationships between adults and non-biological children. For this reason, the realm of who pays child support for a youth can become somewhat murky. While paternity is often an important factor in establishing who should pay for the costs of a child, it may not be sufficient for the particular details of every unique family situation. Individuals who need further assistance with complex child support matters may utilize the services of family law attorneys to better serve the best interests of the child.

Source:¬†Massachusetts Court System, “How can I get child support for my child?” accessed April 6, 2015

Massachusetts child support guidelines can be overwritten

During their divorce, the parents of a Massachusetts child may decide to settle child support matters related to that young person’s care. Courts generally look to the Commonwealth’s child support guidelines and base their determinations on the factors included therein. However, in some cases, Massachusetts courts can go against the child support guidelines and make their own independent child support determinations, when those determinations serve the children’s best interests.

Under the general laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there is a rebuttable presumption that, when applied correctly, the child support guidelines provide the right amount of support for a child. A parent may overcome this rebuttable presumption. Nonetheless, by showing that the support established by the guidelines is either too high or too low for the needs of the child. In those cases, a court must provide several pieces of information to make its own support decision.

First, the court must provide the amount of support that the guidelines would give to the child in question. Second, the court would have to assert that the guidelines are insufficient to address the circumstances of the particular case. Third, the court would have to offer the case-specific information that would justify overriding the guidelines’ determinations. Fourth, the court would have to show that going against the guidelines served the best interests of the child subject to the support determination.

If a court can establish these four factors, it can make its own support decision about how much financial support a child should receive. The child support guidelines are not always accommodating to the financial needs of every child or the many special circumstances that can arise when parents split while raising a child. Individuals who would like to learn more about child support and the Massachusetts support guidelines can work with family law attorneys who practice in their communities.

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