78. What is the child support exclusion?

Legally-obligated child support you pay to a child not living in your home household does not count as income for SNAP. 106 C.M.R. § 363.230(O). (Special rules apply when calculating the 20% earnings disregard, see below.)

Child support payments are non-countable only if you have proof of both the amount you pay and your legal obligation to pay it --such as a court order, administrative order, or legally enforceable separation. 106 C.M.R. §§ 361.610(J), 364.400(E). If the child support is paid out of your Social Security benefits or MA Unemployment benefits, DTA may be able to verify both your payments and your legal obligation to pay.

Unfortunately, you cannot claim payments you voluntarily make without a court order or legal agreement. And you cannot claim any alimony payments even if court-ordered or in divorce agreement.

You can claim the child support you pay directly to the custodial parent, to a court, or the Department of Revenue (DOR). You can claim child support paid directly from your Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, Workers Comp, or other income sources.

You can also claim legally-required payments for health insurance, required for past child support (arrearages), as well as any third party payments. This includes payments to a landlord, utility company, or tuition payments to a school for the needs of the child. 106 C.M.R. § 364.400(E).

When DTA calculates your SNAP benefits, they exclude the child support from both your gross and net earned income. But, if the child support is paid out of earnings, DTA includes the value of the child support in the 20% earnings disregard.- giving you a larger disregard.

Example: Jane earns $2,600/month gross income and pays $500/month court-ordered child support. DTA does not count the $500/month -- it is excluded from income. This means her gross countable income is $2,100 -- below the 200% gross income test of $2,430 for 1 person. In calculating Jane’s SNAP, DTA does not count the $500 in child support -- but DTA does calculate the 20% earnings deduction based on her full gross income of $2,600. This means she gets a $520/month earned income deduction.

Proof of child support payments

There are two factors you need to verify for DTA to excluded child support from your income – the amount you pay and your legal obligation to make child support payments.

In 3 situations, DTA should accept one verification to prove both the amount of child support you pay and your legal obligation to support:

  1. A DOR “lockbox bill” or other verification from DOR.
  2. If your Social Security benefits (RSDI) are garnished for child support, a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) stating the garnishment is for child support payments. 
  3. If your Unemployment Insurance benefits are garnished for child support, DTA should be able to verify this information through the data they access directly from the Department of Unemployment Assistance.

If you pay child support through your wages or through other means, you must verify both the amount and your legal obligation. The amount you pay can be verified with cancelled checks, pay stubs, a statement from the custodial parent proving you make payments, or proof from the Department of Revenue (DOR) if they are garnishing your wages. 

Your legal obligation to pay the child support can be verified through a court or administrative order, divorce decree, separation order or other legal document that shows your legal obligation. 106 C.M.R. §§ 361.610(J), 364.400(E).

DTA Online Guide 

See Appendix G for links to the DTA’s BEACON Online Guide for this section.