Child support is a financial arrangement that ensures the well-being of children when their parents are no longer together. In Massachusetts, when the obligor (the parent responsible for paying child support) becomes unemployed, it can raise important questions about how child support obligations are affected.
In complex child support cases in Massachusetts, having a top-tier family law attorney like Jay Davis by your side can make all the difference. Jay brings unmatched expertise, a proven track record, and a profound understanding of the nuances of Massachusetts child support laws to your case. Don’t navigate the complexities of child support disputes alone — choose Jay Davis and the Davis Law Group to safeguard your child’s future.
Modification of Child Support in Massachusetts
When an obligor becomes unemployed in Massachusetts, it does not automatically relieve them of their child support obligations. With that said, the state recognizes that financial situations can change, and there are mechanisms in place to address these changes. An obligor can request a modification of child support through the court if they experience a substantial change in circumstances, such as unemployment.
Proving Substantial Change in Circumstances
To successfully modify child support due to unemployment, the obligor must demonstrate that their job loss was involuntary and that they are actively seeking new employment. Documentation, such as termination notices, job search records, and unemployment benefit statements can be crucial in proving their case.
While a modification request is pending, the court may grant temporary relief by reducing the obligor’s child support payments. This ensures that the child’s immediate financial needs are met during the unemployment period. It’s important to note that any modification is retroactive to the date the obligor filed the modification request, so it’s essential to act promptly.
Reemployment and Recalculation
When the obligor secures new employment, they should promptly inform the court and their co-parent. At this point, child support can be recalculated based on the new income, ensuring that the child’s needs continue to be met.
In Massachusetts, child support matters are not one-size-fits-all, and that’s why you need a child support attorney who possesses a deep knowledge of the state’s unique laws. In cases that deviate from the norm, such as complex financial situations or special needs children, your attorney’s skills can make all the difference. Contact leading Massachusetts child support lawyer Jay Davis at Davis Law Group today to secure the knowledgeable guidance your unique situation demands and give your child the support they deserve.
What is the Legal Standard for Income Attribution in MA Child Support Cases?
In Massachusetts child support cases, income attribution is a legal concept used when determining child support obligations. It allows the court to attribute income to a parent who may not be earning their full potential or deliberately suppressing their income to reduce child support payments.
Voluntary Unemployment or Underemployment
Massachusetts law recognizes that some parents may voluntarily reduce their income or remain unemployed to avoid paying higher child support. In such cases, the court has the authority to attribute income based on the parent’s earning capacity rather than their actual income. This concept ensures that parents cannot escape their financial responsibility for their children by purposefully lowering their income.
To attribute income, the court typically assesses the parent’s earning capacity. This involves evaluating the parent’s education, work history, and qualifications to determine what they could reasonably earn if fully employed. The court will consider factors such as the parent’s past employment, educational background, work experience, and job market conditions.
Good Faith Effort
Massachusetts courts require that the attribution of income be made in “good faith.” This means that the court should consider whether the parent is genuinely making an effort to secure employment or increase their income. If a parent is actively seeking employment, but is unable to find suitable work, the court may be less likely to attribute additional income.
When the court attributes income to a parent, it typically uses imputed income. Imputed income is an estimate of the parent’s earning capacity based on their qualifications and the prevailing job market conditions. The court may consider factors such as the parent’s past earnings, current job opportunities, and local employment conditions.
Reasonable and Necessary Expenses
The court will also take into account any reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by the parent when attributing income. This includes factors such as taxes, health insurance, and work-related expenses that would be deducted from the imputed income.
It’s important to note that the process of income attribution must adhere to due process requirements, ensuring that the parent subject to income attribution has an opportunity to present evidence, challenge the attribution, and provide reasons for their employment or income situation.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof typically falls on the parent seeking to attribute income. They must present evidence to demonstrate that the other parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed and that income attribution is necessary to ensure a fair and appropriate child support order.
Limitations of Automatic Attribution of Full-Time, Minimum Wage Employment in Child Support Cases
Here are some reasons why this approach can be problematic:
- Failure to Account for Actual Income: Automatically attributing full-time, minimum wage employment assumes that every parent is capable of securing such employment. Moreover, this may not be the case. Some parents may have physical or mental health issues that prevent them from working full-time, while others may have legitimate reasons for being underemployed.
- Unrealistic Expectations: Massachusetts recognizes that child support should be based on a parent’s actual income and earning capacity. Automatically attributing minimum wage employment can create unrealistic expectations for parents who genuinely cannot secure such employment due to factors beyond their control.
- Inequity: Every child support case is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach does not take into account the diverse circumstances of parents. Automatic attribution may lead to unfair child support orders that do not consider the financial realities of each parent.
- Potential for Injustice: In some cases, parents may face barriers to employment, such as a lack of job opportunities, limited education or skills, or caregiving responsibilities for a child with special needs. Automatically attributing income without considering these factors can result in unjust child support orders.
- Incentive for Parents to Hide Income: An automatic attribution of income can create an incentive for parents to hide their actual income or engage in underhanded tactics to avoid paying child support. If they know that the court will assume full-time, minimum wage employment, they may be more inclined to under-report or conceal their actual income.
To address these concerns, Massachusetts relies on a case-by-case assessment of a parent’s earning capacity and financial circumstances when determining child support orders.
Are You Facing Child Support Issues in Massachusetts?
Meet Jay Davis, your dedicated Massachusetts child support attorney at Davis Law Group. With years of experience, exceptional legal acumen, and a deep sense of empathy, Jay has successfully represented numerous clients in challenging child support cases. At Davis Law Group, your concerns are our concerns. We will approach your child support case with well-crafted legal strategy, working tirelessly to secure the best possible outcome for you and your child. Contact us today at (617) 752-6216 or fill out this online contact form to schedule your free consultation.