Can a non-biological parent be required to pay child support?

Last week, this Massachusetts family law blog discussed the circumstances under which a grandparent may secure visitation or custody of his or her grandchild. In many cases, after a divorce the parents of a child share custody of that young person based on a court-approved schedule. In such arrangements, one parent is deemed the custodial parent for physical custody purposes and the other is deemed the non-custodial parent who generally has visitation rights.

Generally, a non-custodial parent is required to pay child support for the financial needs of raising a child. This is because the custodial parent expends many resources, including time, money, and energy, into the direct care of the child. Child support from the non-custodial parent can be used to balance the expenditure of resources provided by each parent.

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Court System website, a non-custodial parent can be required to pay child support. Generally, that parent must be proven to be the actual parent of the child; in some cases where paternity is not established, the first step in getting child support is determining that an individual has a parental relationship with a child. If paternity is proven, initiating a child support request can be somewhat more straightforward.

Adoption and other procedures can create paternal relationships between adults and non-biological children. For this reason, the realm of who pays child support for a youth can become somewhat murky. While paternity is often an important factor in establishing who should pay for the costs of a child, it may not be sufficient for the particular details of every unique family situation. Individuals who need further assistance with complex child support matters may utilize the services of family law attorneys to better serve the best interests of the child.

Source: Massachusetts Court System, “How can I get child support for my child?” accessed April 6, 2015

Massachusetts child support guidelines can be overwritten

During their divorce, the parents of a Massachusetts child may decide to settle child support matters related to that young person’s care. Courts generally look to the Commonwealth’s child support guidelines and base their determinations on the factors included therein. However, in some cases, Massachusetts courts can go against the child support guidelines and make their own independent child support determinations, when those determinations serve the children’s best interests.

Under the general laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there is a rebuttable presumption that, when applied correctly, the child support guidelines provide the right amount of support for a child. A parent may overcome this rebuttable presumption. Nonetheless, by showing that the support established by the guidelines is either too high or too low for the needs of the child. In those cases, a court must provide several pieces of information to make its own support decision.

First, the court must provide the amount of support that the guidelines would give to the child in question. Second, the court would have to assert that the guidelines are insufficient to address the circumstances of the particular case. Third, the court would have to offer the case-specific information that would justify overriding the guidelines’ determinations. Fourth, the court would have to show that going against the guidelines served the best interests of the child subject to the support determination.

If a court can establish these four factors, it can make its own support decision about how much financial support a child should receive. The child support guidelines are not always accommodating to the financial needs of every child or the many special circumstances that can arise when parents split while raising a child. Individuals who would like to learn more about child support and the Massachusetts support guidelines can work with family law attorneys who practice in their communities.

Halle Berry’s child support and custody dispute gets specific

How an individual chooses to convey their personal appearance can say a lot about how they want to be viewed by others. People throughout Massachusetts select different styles for their hair, clothing and other visual features in order to best convey the images they want to express. Children often have definite ideas about how they want to look, though often, their desires are tempered by what their parents will allow.

A famous actress and her former partner have recently gotten into a messy dispute over what each can and cannot do to their daughter’s appearance. Halle Berry and her former partner, Gabriel Aubry, recently had representatives in court determining whether Aubry could have their 6-year-old daughter’s hair chemically straightened and lightened. Although a judge determined that neither Berry nor Aubry can change the girl’s hair, the issue does raise interesting questions about what parents may and may not do without the other’s consent.

Berry pays Aubry child support in order to care for their daughter when the child is in Aubry’s custody. According to this judge’s ruling, however, it seems that Aubry does not have full leeway regarding how he can use that money for the child’s care. Some decisions about raising a child must be made collectively between the child’s parents.

While in many cases parents must come together to make important decisions about topics such as a child’s schooling, medical care and religion, this case demonstrates that courts can require parents to work together on matters of apparently less significance. The form of custody that a parent exercises over a child, as well as whether they pay any child support for that child’s care, can factor into how collaborative parents have to be about child-focused decisions. Individuals who have questions about child support or decision-making regarding their kids can work with family law attorneys to address their specific legal needs.

Source: New Pittsburgh Courier, “Judge Orders Halle Berry’s Ex To Stop Straightening, Lightening Daughter’s Hair,” Ruth Manuel-Logan, Nov. 28, 2014

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