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Agreeing on Child Support in an Uncontested Divorce

Divorce is never easy, but going through an uncontested divorce is less difficult for everyone involved. With an uncontested divorce, the parties come to an agreement over the major issues in a divorce – like property division, child custody, and child support – rather than litigating. The lack of drama is especially comforting when there are minor children involved. 

One area that takes some parents a little more work to agree on is the payment of child support. Typically, the person who has primary physical custody of the children is paid child support by the other parent. Ultimately, an agreement needs to be made based on what is fair and appropriate. The amount should be enough that the children will be able to retain the same economic status they knew before the divorce while taking into account the non-custodial parent’s need to make a living for themselves without being forced into hardship.

Infinity Law Group represents parents and families in the greater Quincy area who are dealing with a range of family law matters. We work hard to help our clients obtain the best possible outcome, keeping the best interests of the children and our clients in mind. Reach out to our law firm to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our legal team.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce?

In Massachusetts, you can get a no-fault uncontested divorce when both spouses agree that the marriage cannot continue and have a written agreement about any issues with the divorce. For a divorce involving minor children, a written agreement should include provisions related to:

  • Alimony
  • Division of property and debts
  • Parenting time
  • Child custody (including both physical and legal custody)
  • Child support

While an uncontested divorce is not possible in every situation, it can often save significant time, money, and stress. If the parties can agree on these major issues, then they can often get a divorce without the expense and uncertainty of litigation. 

Most issues in a divorce agreement are up to the parties. However, because child support is for the benefit of the children, any agreement related to it must conform with Massachusetts law. The parties should use a child support calculator to determine how much child support is owed. 

Any agreement related to child support can provide for more money than the child support guidelines, but probably won’t be approved if it is less than the guidelines. For a court to permit a deviation from the guidelines, it must make specific written findings as to:

  • The presumptive child support amount under the guidelines;
  • A conclusion that the guideline amount would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances;
  • Any specific facts that justify the deviation; and
  • A determination that the deviation is in the child’s best interests.

A deviation may be warranted if:

  • The parties agree to the deviation and the court believes it to be fair, reasonable, and in the best interests of the child;
  • One of the parents or the child has extraordinary mental, physical, or developmental needs;
  • A parent has substantially less than 1/3 of the parenting time under the agreed-upon parenting plan;
  • The paying parent is incarcerated and doesn’t have the resources to pay;
  • The guideline order would create a situation where one party is not able to properly support themselves; and/or
  • A parent has extraordinary travel expenses related to parenting.

The decision whether to allow a deviation is based on both the specific facts of a particular case and Massachusetts law. If you have questions about agreeing to child support in an uncontested divorce, reach out to Infinity Law Group to speak with a Quincy divorce attorney about your case.

Determining Child Support Payments for an Uncontested Divorce

To keep the amount of child support fair, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has developed specific guidelines for calculating child support that uses a mathematical formula that looks at several factors to determine the appropriate amount of child support. This includes:

  • Gross income of the parents;
  • Amount, if any, of support paid for a child from a previous relationship;
  • Child care costs;
  • Health insurance costs;
  • Age of the child or children;
  • Any other support obligations.

Child support is paid to the parent with primary physical custody by the noncustodial parent. For example, if one parent has custody of the kids during the school week and the other parent has the kids on weekends, the second parent would probably pay child custody to the first. Legal custody – or the authority to make decisions about important issues like medical care, education, and religion – is not considered when it comes to child support.

A child support worksheet and guidelines chart can be used to determine an expected payment if no special circumstances exist.  The guidelines also make provisions for health insurance costs or special or extensive medical expenses that the child or custodial parent might have. Extra child care expenses are considered too if helps the other parent work or attend a program to increase their income. Travel expenses attributed to maintaining a relationship with the child may also be counted. For example, there may be a reduction if the custodial parent moves out of the area and the parent or child has to fly somewhere else to spend time together.

Another circumstance that can affect the amount of child support paid is whether or not the person paying support is in the military.  The person’s base pay and other benefits are looked at differently than civilian pay, and there are times that military obligations affect the service person’s ability to earn income in the civilian sector.  Parents can also decide independently which person will handle the responsibility of health insurance for the child, as well as how to handle related expenses that aren’t covered by insurance.

Before the divorce goes through, a Quincy divorce lawyer can make an approximate calculation of how much a child support payment is likely to be. Parents divorcing amicably will sometimes decide on a different amount based on their own needs and calculations. If both parties agree on the amount, it is possible to override the formula set by the state. 

As explained above, a court will need to approve the divorce agreement for an uncontested divorce, including any deviation from the child support guidelines. It is unusual – but possible – for a court to approve a written agreement for less child support. If you and your soon-to-be-ex are contemplating an uncontested divorce, reach out to Infinity Law Group to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Quincy family law attorneys.

Keeping Child Support Orders Current

Just as income levels and family living situations are not set in stone, neither are child support orders. The latest provisions of the law allow for child support calculations to be revisited every three years to determine whether or not the initial calculations are still applicable to the current situation. This includes child support agreements as part of an uncontested divorce.

Whether child support is being determined for the first time or is being revisited due to changes in someone’s income or life situation, Infinity Law Group provides free phone consultations where they can help parents understand how the child support guidelines apply to them. If you have questions about your child support obligations, reach out to talk to one of our lawyers.

How Infinity Law Group Can Help

If you can agree with your ex about property division, child custody, and child support, you may be able to take advantage of Massachusetts’ uncontested divorce process. When it comes to child support, the amount should be based on the child support guidelines and include justification for any deviation.  

Infinity Law Group provides compassionate, strategic legal advice to clients who are dealing with divorce or other family law matters. This includes counseling clients about uncontested divorces and the legal requirements related to child support agreements. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a divorce attorney, give us a call at 617-250-8253 or fill out our online contact form.

Can I Agree to Waive Child Support in Massachusetts?

No. In almost all cases, a court will not allow a parent to waive child support – even if both parents agree to it as part of an uncontested divorce. Under Massachusetts law, child support is something that a child is entitled to, so it isn’t something that a parent can waive. 

There may be circumstances when waiving child support is allowed, just as a deviation from the child support guidelines may be permitted. Contact Infinity Law Group to learn more about coming to an agreement about child support and other issues as part of an uncontested divorce. Our Quincy divorce lawyers are available to schedule a free phone consultation.

Will I Have to Submit Financial Information for Child Support in an Uncontested Divorce?

Yes. If you have minor children and are pursuing an uncontested divorce, then you will have to complete and submit financial statement for each parent and a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (CJD-304) when filing for divorce. The information regarding your finances will be used by the judge to determine whether your agreed-upon child support comports with the Massachusetts child support guidelines.

If you have questions about how child support is calculated in Massachusetts and what you can agree to as part of an uncontested divorce, we can help. Reach out to Infinity Law Group to talk to our Quincy child support attorneys about your case.