Mixed Physical Custody Arrangements and Child Support

In the family law courts there is a tendency of parties, attorneys, and even judges to award physical custody of multiple children as an all or nothing situation. That is, if there are two kids in a family the award of physical custody will likely be the same for both. Often times this is in the children’s best interest. However, sometimes children do better with one parent than with another while another child does fine with both. In these situations mixed physical custody may be appropriate.

An example I’ve come across is where a couple agreed to shared physical custody of one of their one children but one parent retained full physical custody of the other. This custody arrangement was in the children’s, and parties’, best interests given the circumstances. The problem came in calculating child support.

Child support is calculated according to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines are normally run with the parent having physical custody of the children being the recipient of child support. However, there are other custody situations that arise. Commonly parties will share physical custody of their 50/50. In this case the guidelines are run “both ways” which means that both parties will run the guidelines with themselves as the recipient. The difference of those two calculations is then paid to the party who earns less. The problem arises then in calculating situations where one party has physical custody of one or more of the children, but shares custody of other children.

Thankfully, the guidelines account for such a situation. The guidelines require that “[w]here there is more than one child covered by this order and each parent provides a primary residence for one or more of these children, child support shall be determined by calculating the child support guidelines twice, first with one parent as the Recipient using the number of children in his or her care, and second with the other parent as the Recipient using the number of children in his or her care. The difference in the calculations shall be paid to the parent with the lower weekly support amount.” This means that if there are two kids, for example, and one parent has sole physical of one child and shares custody of the other, they will run the guidelines with them as having 2 dependents (since they have full custody of one child and share custody with the other). The other party will run the guidelines with them having only 1 child as a dependent (since they share custody of one child). The difference is then paid to the lesser earner.

If you have a child support issue you should contact and experienced family law attorney to discuss your case. Levine-Piro Law handles all aspects of family law, including child support and offers free consultations. Contact Levine-Piro Law at office@levinepirolaw.com or call 978-637-2048.