On August 1, 2013, the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines were amended, once again. Amongst the changes made was the inclusion of specific language regarding the treatment of Social Security or SSDI benefits, as well as any such benefits received by a child for whom support is being calculated.
On August 1, 2013, the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines were amended, once again. Amongst the changes made was the inclusion of specific language regarding the treatment of Social Security or SSDI benefits, as well as any such benefits received by a child for whom support is being calculated. On July 2, 2014, the Appeals Court affirmed the judgment of Schmidt v. McCulloch-Schmidt, which dealt with the treatment of such benefits.
In a nutshell, here’s how the courts will treat Social Security benefits, SSDI benefits or dependency benefits received for a child:
1. Social Security and SSDI benefits received by a parent will be considered as part of that parent’s income. These benefits are different from means-tested public assistance benefits like SSI or SNAP, which are NOT included in the parent’s income. In other words, if a parent receives benefits due to financial need, those benefits are excluded from the child support calculations. If a parent receives benefits due to age or disability, those benefits ARE included in the support calculations.
2. In many instances, a child will receive a dependency benefit due to his/her parent’s own benefits. For example, a parent receiving SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) may also qualify to have the custodial parent receive SSDI Dependency Benefits on behalf of their child. In this case, any dependency benefits received are included in that custodial parent’s gross income for purposes of calculating child support.
3. If the resulting child support order is less than the SSDI Dependency Benefits, then no further child support is ordered, and the custodial parent gets to keep the entire dependency benefit, regardless of whether or not it was through the custodial parent that the child became eligible for the dependency benefits.
4. If the resulting child support order is greater than the dependency benefit and the custodial parent is the one through whom the benefit was derived, then the non-custodial parent has to pay the entire child support figure.
5. If the resulting child support order is greater than the dependency benefit and the non-custodial parent is the one from whom the benefit was derived, then the non-custodial parent will pay the difference between the child support order and the dependency benefit.
Here are some examples, in order to make things a little less confusing:
Father receives SSDI. Due to his father’s receipt of SSDI, the child also qualifies to receive Dependency Benefits, which are granted to the custodial parent. Mother receives regular income from a W-2 job. Mother is the custodial parent.
- Mother’s income includes the income she receives from her employment, as well as the SSDI Dependency Benefits received for their son.
- Father’s income includes his SSDI benefits.
- The amount of dependency benefits is $80.00 per week.
- The resulting child support order is $75.00 per week from the Father to the Mother.
- Since the child support order is less than the amount of the benefits received by Mother as a result of Father’s own receipt of SSDI benefits, Father does not have to pay any support.
If we use the same scenario as above but make the child support order $85.00 per week, then the Father would be responsible for paying the difference between the child support and the benefits, which would be $5.00 per week. Since the Father is the one from whom the dependency benefits are derived, he receives a dollar-to-dollar credit for them against his child support order.
If we use the first scenario but make it so that the Father is the custodial parent (and thus also receiving the dependency benefits), then the Mother would not pay the Father any child support because the support order is less than the dependency benefit.
If we use this same scenario but make the child support order $85.00 per week, then the Mother would owe the Father then entire $85.00. There would be no off-set for the dependency benefits because the benefits were not derived from the Mother, who is the payor.
For questions about the calculation of child support or any other domestic relations matters, please contact Attorney Leila J. Wons to schedule a consultation.
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