Accounting for Health and Child Care Costs in MA Child Support
The MA 2018 Child Support Guidelines Worksheet is unable to account for health care and child care costs in a way that is comprehensible or fair. This is not a new problem--the MA 2013 and 2017 Child Support Guidelines Worksheets also failed to account for these costs in a way that was comprehensible or fair.
Take the example of a couple who have one child, identical incomes ($2500/week), and 50-50 custody. If Spouse A pays $100/week for health care and childcare, it is obvious how to share this cost: they have equal incomes and equal custody, so they should equally share the $100/week for health and child care costs. This would mean Spouse B should reimburse Spouse A $50/week, so that each is contributing $50/week.
When this scenario is run through the 2018 Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, however, the spouse who pays the $100 per week for health care is only reimbursed $18 rather than the $50. So one spouse pays 82% of the health care costs and the other pays only 18%, even though they have exactly equal incomes and exactly equal parenting time. In this case the person who happens to write the check for health care or childcare expenses is punished financially.
Failure to account for these costs in a reasonable way is not a new problem. When this same scenario–equal custody and equal incomes of $2500–is run through the September 15, 2017 Worksheet, the person who pays $100 for health care gets $118 from the other spouse. So one spouse makes a profit of $18 and the other spouse pays $118 for health care that only cost $100 to begin with! When this scenario is run through the MA 2013 Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, Spouse B is required to reimburse Spouse A $16. So instead of each spouse paying $50, Spouse A pays $84 and Spouse B pays $16.
These problems are illustrated with 50-50 parenting time cases, here, but related problems occur in 67%-33% parenting time cases, in which the share of the health and childcare costs depends on which spouse happens to write the check to the child care provider rather than on each spouse's share of income.
With the 2018 Deviation Calculator on this page, parents share health care and child care costs based on their percent of income after application of child support. If their incomes, after application of child support, are equal, then they share the costs equally. If a parent has 25% of the income after application of guideline child support, that parent is made responsible for 25% of the health and child care costs in the final calculation. If a parent has 57% of the income, that parent is made responsible for 57% of the health care costs in the final calculation.
The 2018 Deviation Calculator disentangles health care and childcare costs from the initial child support calculation.
- It first figures child support as if there were no health care or child care costs.
- It then applies this child support amount to the incomes of the two spouses.
- It then calculates the percentage of total income that each spouse has after child support payments and uses this percentage to determine how much of the health care and childcare costs each parent should pay.
- The calculator then compares how much each parent actually pays for health care and child care with the amount each spouse should pay, based on their percentage of income.
- The difference between what they actually paid for health care and childcare and what they should pay determines how much to adjust the weekly child support amount up or down, producing a final figure.
Instructions for Using this Child Support Deviation Calculator
To calculate a child support number, simply:
a) Enter a name for yourself and your spouse (fake names are fine)
b) Enter the number of children under age 18 that you have together
c) Enter the number of children you have together who i) have turned 18 but not yet turned 23 and ii) live with you or are supported by you. If a child is still attending high school, treat the child as under 18.
d) Indicate the amount of time that the child spends with each parent by choosing from among 4 choices: about 50% time with each parent, about 1/3 of the time with you and 2/3 of the time with your spouse, about 2/3 of the time with you and 1/3 of the time with your spouse, or (less common) "split" custody, in which different children have primary residence with different parents. Choose the one that is closest to your situation.
e) Enter i) gross weekly income for each spouse, ii) the weekly amount paid by each spouse for childcare, iii) the amount paid by each spouse for family or individual health care insurance each week, iv) the amount paid weekly by each spouse toward the CHILD’s vision or dental insurance, and v) the amount each spouse pays out weekly for alimony or child support from a previous relationship or marriage.