The Effect of Joint Custody on Child Support

The Effect of Joint Custody on Child Support


Joint custody child support can bring complexities of negotiating in order to settle on a sensible custody agreement.

Even if parents have joint physical custody (dual-custody), child support can still be ordered. This is because the purpose of child support is to ensure the children are adequately provided for regardless of where they reside. The belief is that the children have a right to benefit from the income of both their parents in the same way that the children would have if their parents stayed together.

Parents often assume that if they spend an equal amount of time with their children, they will have equal child-related expenses, and as a result, child support is not needed. However, the Massachusetts child support guidelines consider the relative income of the parents, in addition to certain expenses associated with raising the children.

How Child Support Payments Are Calculated When There is Joint Custody

The common questions with joint custody child support are ‘who is responsible for payments”  and “how are payments split up”? Massachusetts child support law plainly says that shared custody does not eliminate the responsibility to pay child support. Similarly, a joint custody arrangement will not automatically reduce the payment. In some situations, the children will still spend more time in one parent’s home than the other. If children spend more time with one parent, that parent is calculated as the recipient.

A true 50-50 division of time between households is less common and is usually ordered as a result of an agreement between the parents. When it occurs, the judge can consider the equal amount of time spent with the children.

Changing Child Support to Reflect Time with your Children

Sometimes parents find that the amount of time they are able to spend with their children is based on their lifestyles: the distance between the parents’ households; where the children go to school; where the parents work; what hours the parents work; and the children’s extracurricular activities. As time passes, circumstances change, and the amount of time children spend with each parent may also change.

Whether you pay or receive child support, you should periodically review the court order to ensure that it accurately reflects where your children spend their time. Depending on the changes, a child support modification may be appropriate.

At Fraier & Maillet, we can help you assess whether there has been a material change in circumstances that warrants a reconsideration of child support. Call us today at (508) 393-3525.



Written by Jane A. Fraier

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