Child support in Massachusetts is based, in large part, off the income of both parents. You may think you can’t get any child support if the other parent refuses to work, but the laws in the state do leave an option for judges to consider that type of scenario.

Find out more about income attribution for child support cases in Massachusetts and how it can help you get child support when the other parent refuses to get a job. Child support disputes and cases can be difficult and complex; consider getting help from a family law attorney who can work in the best interests of you and your children to get them the support they need.

How Is Child Support Determined in Massachusetts?

Child support in the state is calculated based on the weekly income of the parents, the number of children in the home, and the amount of time that each parent spends with the children. While the state expects both parents to support the basic needs of their children, only one parent will typically pay child support. This is because the state assumes that the parent with whom the children reside or the lower income is already paying an equal or greater amount in direct expenses for the children.

Courts use a form called the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet to calculate the appropriate child support in each case. The worksheet gathers information such as how many children are in the home, income for both parents, and potential deductions, such as payments for health insurance premiums or child care.

The worksheet walks through a series of calculations that helps determine what level of income the parents have and what amount should be paid in support.

What Is Income Attribution?

Based on how child support is calculated in the state, it may seem like the noncustodial parent can get out of paying it simply by refusing to work or working at a lower paying job than what they had before. The law allows for income attribution for this reason.

If a judge believes that a parent is able to work and is simply not doing so, the judge can make a reasonable calculation of what the parent would be earning if they were working. This is income attribution, and when it’s used correctly, the judge can base child support amounts on the attributed income and not the real income of that parent.

Judges can also use income attribution in cases where someone is working but the judge feels they are underemployed. For example, if someone is a doctor but chooses to work as a cashier just to make less money so they don’t have to pay support, a judge might choose to apply income attribution. Another example might be where the parent cuts down their hours from full-time to part-time to show less money on a paycheck.

Where Will the Money Come From if the Other Parent Doesn’t Work?

Once a court orders a certain amount of child support, the other party typically has to pay it. While there may be some options for appeal, someone who is refusing to work just to get out of paying child support is unlikely to win their case.

The purpose of income attribution is to apply realistic requirements to someone. Once a court orders the person to pay an amount in keeping with a realistic income, that person may see that not working isn’t a viable way to get out of child support. The hope is that they would return to the workforce and have an income with which to pay their child support.

But, at the end of the day, if there is an order for one parent to pay child support based on an attribution of income, they are going to have to figure out how to pay it or risk being sentenced to jail if they are found to be in contempt.

Get Help With Your Child Support Case From an Experienced Family Law Attorney

Child support cases can get complex and even messy, especially where someone is self-employed or trying to hide money. Many times, heated emotions are at play between parents. Both may want to do what is best for the children and have different ideas of what that is. Sometimes, emotional baggage from a divorce or problems in the previous marriage can make someone unable to see what they should be doing for their kids.

Massachusetts law includes a lot of guidance on setting child support for these reasons. It strives to take the emotions out of the process so that children receive the right level of support from both parents. But you can’t always rely on the court systems and the laws to work in your favor and the best interests of your children automatically. That’s because every child custody situation is unique and you may need to present your case and fight for it.

Working with a lawyer for your child support case helps support a more positive outcome for you. A family law attorney understands how child support is calculated in Massachusetts and has experience with various judges and their rulings. They can offer advice on what you should do to make your case and how you might need to approach the other parent or the court if there’s a dispute about child support.

Don’t try to navigate the family law system on your own or go up against another parent who is refusing to work without help. Contact O’Connor Family Law today to find out how we can support you in your fight to get the right level of support for your children.