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Child Support and Parenting Time: How Are They Related?

Massachusetts law determines child custody cases on the basis of the “best interest of the child.” The best interest of the child drives every decision the court makes, including the amount of time the child will spend with each parent (“parenting time”), as well as the amount of child support the non-custodial parent will pay the custodial parent.

What is Parenting Time?
Parenting time refers to the amount of time the child spends with each parent. Generally, there is a custodial parent, who has physical custody of the child for more than half of the time, and a non-custodial parent, who has the child on specific weekdays, weekends, and holidays. However, there are instances when both parents have “shared physical custody” of the child with equal amounts of parenting time, as well as instances where the non-custodial parent has less parenting time than the traditional schedule.

What is Child Support?
The law requires that both parents – whether divorced, separated, or never married – provide financial support for their children. Child support is money paid from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the support of the child. The custodial parent can use the child support for housing, health and medical costs, childcare costs, education, food, clothing, or whatever else the child needs.

How Does Parenting Time Affect Child Support?
The Massachusetts child support guidelines assume that the child spends about 1/3 of his or her time with the non-custodial parent, generally every other weekend and one night during the week. In certain cases, however, a judge may order more or less child support, based on parenting time. For example:

  • Non-custodial parent shares limited or no parenting time: the courts can adjust child support so he or she pays a higher amount.
  • Non-custodial parent has more parenting time than the traditional 1/3 schedule, but less than half of the time: the judge looks at both parents’ incomes to determine the amount of child support the custodial parent will receive.
  • Equal division of parenting time (shared physical custody): the court uses an alternative method that takes into consideration each parent’s income to determine how much child support is owed and which parent will receive it.

If you have questions about modifying your child support based on your current parenting schedule, contact us at the Law Office of Lamb and Lamb PC to discuss your options.

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