A previous post on this blog talked about how, in Massachusetts, each parent's income plays an important role, perhaps the most important role, in a judge's decision about how much child support the parent who is not going to live in the home with the child will pay.
Some Springfield residents might be left wondering what exactly counts as "income" when it comes to determining child support. After all, while it is fairly obvious that the salary from one's regular job would be "income," many parents make, or save, money in a variety of other ways. Moreover, it is certainly not uncommon for a parent to hold more than one job, work overtime, etc.
Basically, income includes anything that one has an obligation to report on his or her tax return, as well as other items that might not have to be reported. In particular, for parents who own their own businesses, the calculation of their business income may be different from what they would report on their taxes.
Moreover, a court has the ability to consider other items, like regular gifts, as income for child support purposes. Likewise, if a parent is getting some sort of benefit, like free rent at a relative's house or help with gas, those items can be included in a child support calculation.
There are a couple of important exceptions to these rules. For one, many forms of public assistance will not factor into a parent's child support obligation. Additionally, judges have the ability to disregard the fact that a parent is working additional hours for overtime or has taken on a second job, particularly if the point of that job is to pay child support.
Calculating child support can be difficult when it is not certain what counts as a parent's income, and an attorney can be helpful in resolving those issues.