Divorce in Massachusetts- How child support and alimony interacts may affect your divorce settlement.
If you are going through a divorce in MA and you have children under 23, you must educate yourself on the topic of how child support and alimony may interact.
What is child support?
Child support is money normally paid from the cash flow of both parents the purpose of which is to support the children's most basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. The Commonwealth has created a calculator that will give a couple a presumptive number to be used for child support. This number is subject to deviation. The calculator has an upper limit of $250,000 total income of both parties to the divorce.
What expenses are not normally thought to be included in child support?
Expenses for uninsured medical, dental and vision is usually in addition to the child support number.
Expenses for activities, tutoring, school tuition and expenses are outside child support.
Expenses of college are outside child support.
Although for the younger children there is a deduction for income for child care expenses, it is certainly not dollar for dollar and many attorneys keep that expense outside the child support calculations as well.
What is alimony?
This is a far more complicated concept, but the general idea of alimony is for one spouse to support the other spouse for a period of time after the divorce provided there is a reasonable need of the requesting spouse and there is money available to the payor after they pay their own reasonable expenses. The amount and duration of alimony was given a presumptive statutory cap by the most recent alimony reform act. The particulars and moving parts are far too lengthy to get into here.
What is the interaction between child support and alimony?
This is a fluid situation since the passage of the alimony reform act and the 2013 child support guidelines were issued.
These are the things to look at:
If the total income of the parties is over $250,000 child support may be calculated on the first $250,000 and the balance may be used for alimony.
If the two incomes are under $250,000 and all the money is being used to calculate child support, there may be no money available to pay alimony AT THIS TIME especially if both spouses are meeting their expenses. Future alimony may be left open (to be considered possibly in the future).
If the two incomes are under or over $250,000 and one spouse is not even close to meeting expenses, a hybrid may be used to pay the spouse some alimony and the children their support. This hybrid number may possibly be more than pure child support but not so high as to place an unreasonable burden on the payor.
Finally there may be a tax issue or opportunity. Since child support is not taxed and alimony is, there may be an opportunity under the right circumstances to allocate the tax burden to benefit both parties.