Federal regulations mandate each state review child support guidelines at least every four years. In September 2017, Massachusetts enacted new child support guidelines after a review. However, the Trial Court has worked to alleviate several issues outstanding from these revised guidelines by amending the 2017 guidelines, as well as completely overhauling the child support guidelines worksheet in June 2018.

Here’s a breakdown of what has changed, and the still-remaining issues that could be addressed in future amendments.

What’s New?

The 2018 child support guidelines give a credit for the amount of medical, dental and/or vision insurance or child care costs to the party who pays these expenses (rather than 

just a deduction from their total income).

Prior to the June 2018 amendment, there was a problem of “double counting” the credit that a party receives for paying insurance or child care, in a shared physical custody arrangement. Prior to the June 2018 amendment, to calculate child support for a 50/50 parenting plan, the court

calculated the guidelines with each parent as the custodial parent and the net amount would become the child support payment. The challenge with running the 2017 guidelines twice was that the party who pays the insurance or child care would receive twice the credit. The June 2018 child support guidelines alleviate the necessity to run the child support guidelines twice, therefore preventing the issue of double counting any insurance or child care credit.

Child support calculated differently for families with children over the age of 18, and additional children under the age of 18.

The September 2017 child support guidelines reduced support orders for children over the age of 18. However, the chart included in the 2017 child support guidelines resulted in some puzzling results for any families of four or more children, where at least one of the children was over the age of 18, effectively awarding a greater amount of child support to a party who has custody of just three children under the age of 18, than to a party who has custody of three children under the age 18 and at least one child over the age of 18. The June 2018 child support guidelines stated, in a comment, an attempt to “fully preserve the increases in child support for additional younger children,” as reason for amending the way child support is calculated.

What Changes Could be Next?

While the new Massachusetts child support guidelines are utilized in the majority of custody cases, there are still several issues with the guidelines that have not been addressed by the Trial Court, causing some inconsistencies in rulings among Judges. These issues could be up for review next time the child support guidelines are amended.

  • The child support guidelines only calculates orders at a combined total income of $250,000 between the parties.   Any income above and beyond the combined $250,000 is to be addressed at the discretion of the Judge. The Trial Court has yet to address a uniform method for handling such an overage when calculating the child support guidelines.
  • The new child support guidelines deal with different custody arrangements: primary custody of all children to one parent, each parent having primary custody of one or more child, and joint physical custody of the children. However, there is no method set forth regarding how to calculate child support when the parties have multiple children and to which the parties share physical custody of one or more children, and one or the other of the parents has primary physical custody of at least one child. Under such a parenting plan, there are no instructions as to how to calculate the child support guidelines.
  • The child support guidelines remain silent on whether or not child support should be reduced in one or both parents are contributing toward college, and if so, what the formula should be for such a reduction.

If you are involved in any legal matters involving the issues of custody and child support it is important that you speak with an attorney who specializes in the field of domestic relations law to ensure that all of your rights are preserved. Contact us today so we can help.

A list of the assets and properties that can be up for division during divorce negotiations

Most people are aware that real estate, bank accounts and furnishings are part of the “property” that will be divided in a divorce. But these aren’t the only ‘things’ that can be split (or traded for another asset) in divorce. Massachusetts law states that all property, however acquired and whenever acquired is “subject” to division, irrespective of title.

Here is an abbreviated list of the less-well-known types of assets which may be subject to division in divorce:

 

Retirement Assets. Pensions, retirement accounts, IRA accounts, Keough accounts, profit sharing accounts and other retirement-type accounts will be considered in property division. In the case of pensions and other “defined benefit” retirement type accounts, those accounts may need to be valued by an actuary if they are traded off for other assets. Note, however, that retirement assets are generally treated differently because they are “illiquid” and generally “pre-tax.” Social security benefits are not a divisible asset; however, they may be considered in other ways by the Courts in some circumstances.

 

Employment Assets. If you or your spouse has stock options, pre-tax dependent care plans or medical expense savings plans, deferred compensation, restricted stock, phantom stock, profit sharing or other benefits associated with employment, these may be subject to division. In the cases of future payments, some assets may be divided on an “if, as, and when” basis.

 

Inheritances, Expectancies, Trusts. If you or your spouse have or will receive an interest in an estate or trust or as a beneficiary, that interest may be considered as well. If a family member has recently passed away, and you are a named beneficiary/heir (or determined by law to receive distribution of the property when there was no Will)), these would be recognized as assets or future interests that may be divided or at least considered in your divorce.

 

Business Interest. If you or your spouse owns a business, the value of that business, if any, is likely to be divided or at least considered in your divorce.

 

Trademarks, Copyrights, Patents, Royalties are other interests which may be divided or considered in some way as part of your divorce.

 

Lawsuits and Legal Claims. If you or your spouse is a plaintiff in a lawsuit (or a potential plaintiff), any monies or assets flowing from your claim as plaintiff may be considered as an asset or interest to be divided in divorce. Similarly, a potential liability or legal claim against you or your spouse as a defendant is likely to be considered as well in your divorce. Monies due you or your spouse, or owed by you or your spouse, under a Promissory Note or other instrument may be considered as well.

 

Tax Assets or Liabilities. If you or your spouse has unused passive tax losses, tax carryforwards, or tax liabilities not yet paid (whether related to joint returns or separate returns), these may be considered in divorce. Similarly, tax refunds not yet received, or tax liabilities not yet paid, are also fair game.

 

Lottery Winnings. If you or your spouse hits the lottery, the winnings would be up for conversation on whether to divide.

 

Cash or Safe Deposit Box contents. Think you can salt away cash or jewels in a shoebox or safe deposit box and escape dividing it with your spouse? Think again. Cash, jewels and other valuables are divisible in divorce. If you fail to fully disclose these assets or interests on your Financial Statement, you can be prosecuted for perjury, and forced to divide the assets anyway. In addition, you may end up paying costs and attorneys fees of your spouse as a result of a misrepresentation by you, or attempt to conceal. Being forthright in your financial disclosures actually helps to protect you against a claim in the future made against you.

The attorneys at Ryan Faenza Carey will assist you in identifying all assets and liabilities relevant to a division of property in your divorce proceedings. Contact us today!

1. Don’t make an offer without a preapproval from a mortgage lender. A seller might not even consider your offer if you do not have a preapproval. A preapproval shows a seller you are serious, and that you are creditworthy. It also provides you with an idea of what you can truly afford to pay as a monthly mortgage payment, so you won’t waste your time looking at houses you cannot afford.

 

2. Have an attorney early on in the process. Most buyers don’t realize that in Massachusetts, the “offer” is a binding contract entered into before you sign a binding Purchase and Sale Agreement. There are important terms and dates that are contained in the offer such as the date by which you must secure financing, and the date of the closing. Generally, these cannot be changed in the Purchase and Sale Agreement. Consult a lawyer as you begin your home search to ensure s/he assists you in determining things to include in your offer.

 

3. Don’t forget to specifically inquire about the extra costs of owning the home you are interested in, such as fuel, energy, trash removal, and such. These costs can add hundreds of dollars monthly to the cost of living in your home. For example, a home with electric heat can add $300-$700 a month in the winter months if the house is in a cooler climate.

 

4. Do not assume what is included or excluded in the sale as far as appliances and fixtures. Make sure your offer specifies what you want to be included in the sale such as appliances, window treatments, and blinds, and what you want removed from the house.

 

5. Don’t assume you can just work with the realtor who listed the house. A home sale transaction can involve one or two realtors; A realtor who lists the home (listing realtor) and one who works with the Buyer. Although a listing realtor can successfully complete a sale leaving both Buyer and Seller happy, to ensure your desires are understood and your needs are satisfied, find a realtor to work directly with you.

Here at Ryan Faenza Carey, whether you are buying, selling or refinancing a property, we can help. Call Attorney Anne Marie Corraro for assistance at 508-668-9112.

  1. There are no punitive damages. Not for extra-marital affairs, not for being the spouse seeking the divorce, and generally not for other conduct unless it has a significant impact on the health or finances of the parties or children.

 

  1. What goes around comes around. If you disparage your spouse to your children and to others in order to cause pain to your spouse, it is likely to cause significant long term pain to your children, and ultimately to you as well, causing wounds which may never heal. More about how to handle divorce with your children in Silver Linings, the book.

 

  1. Alimony is gender neutral. For the successful higher earning men and women of Massachusetts, you may pay alimony to your soon to be ex in a divorce.

 

  1. You can’t have it both ways. An equitable divorce in the eyes of the law may be one in which both parties walk away feeling unhappy.   For every benefit there is generally a corresponding burden. Your idea of “fair” may not comport with the Court’s view of fairness.

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  1. You can’t “stop” a divorce. We have no fault divorce in Massachusetts.   If one spouse wants a divorce, a divorce will be granted, even over the objections of the other.

When you buy or sell a home, what stays and what goes?

Picture this: You’ve just bought your first house, and are excited to make it your own, only to discover when you open the door on move-in day that the previous owner removed a chandelier and sconses leaving enormous holes in the ceiling and walls. This can be overwhelming, and certainly frustrating for a new buyer.

What do you do?

Generally speaking, anything “permanently” attached to the property must remain. So the curtain rods and shades probably stay, but the curtains can be removed. The dishwasher probably stays, but the refrigerator, washer and dryer can probably be removed. You don’t have to leave your prized 72” flatscreen, but you probably willneed to leave the mount affixed to the wall.

Sellers and buyers can negotiate that certain items will stay, or will be removed. The best practice is to include or exclude any questionable items in the listing, or at least in the Purchase and Sale Agreement, so that there is a meeting of the minds. A walk-through inspection immediately before the closing is essential so that any last minute problems are dealt with before the deed and the money changes hands.

Buying and selling a home are stressful events, even though they may be pleasant ones. The earlier you engage an attorney to educate you and ensure your interests are protected, the better. We at Ryan Faenza Cataldo understand the process and can be of great assistance to you in ensuring a smooth transition, whether you are moving in, or moving out.