There are many divorce attorneys and firms who like to define themselves as specializing in representing “men” or representing “women” in particular. Over the years, divorce has become more gender neutral, although not completely gender neutral.  “Parenting” has replaced the traditional notions of “custody” and “visitation,” recognizing the importance of both parents.  Recent significant changes in both the alimony and child support laws have resulted in more gender neutral treatment in these areas (i.e. alimony and child support orders received by both men and women).  

So do you need a “divorce attorney for men” or a “divorce attorney for women”?

We at Ryan Faenza Carey believe the selection of an attorney to represent you in a divorce is an important one, and that there are many considerations more important than gender.  Experience, professionalism, and high rate of settlement are all important considerations in selecting an attorney.  It is critical that you feel trust and confidence in your attorney, and that you are able to communicate with him or her.  Over the decades, our firm has represented roughly equal numbers of men and women in divorce and family law matters.  We believe this broad base of clientele allows us to be strong advocates for both men and women, resulting in a meaningful resolution in most cases.

Decide for yourself. Call us for a consultation.

A divorce can feel like a liberating experience once legal proceedings are finalized. Many people leave our office for the last time with the feeling that the past is behind them, and nothing but opportunities for the future await. They don’t expect to have to deal with any more court or legal proceedings. 

Nevertheless, here are some post-divorce considerations we share with all of our clients to ensure they are avoiding additional legal headaches down the road:

Don’t Forget your Agreement Terms:

It is good practice to periodically read throughyour Agreement or Judgment after the divorce to carry out the terms of the divorce. Typically, parties often forget some of the terms of the final orders. There are probably provisions concerning splitting up the assets, who takes the dependent exemptions for the children, life insurance you may have to establish or verify, provisions regarding payment of uninsured medical expenses for the children, or other things to be done to carry out the agreement reached.

Make sure you’re legally divorced before remarrying

Be sure to wait until the Judgment of Divorce Absolute—the final judgment—before you remarry. This is the formal document that recognizes you as legally single in the eyes of the law.

Consider a Prenuptial for the next one

If you do remarry, a prenuptial agreement can save you a lot of headache by determining in advance what should happen if your subsequent remarriage ends by divorce or death.

Be aware of your right to modification

If circumstances of the parties or children change, you may want to explore a modification– a  change in the Court orders—typically these changes concern support, parenting schedule, medical insurance, life insurance triggered by changes in income, job, or changes in parenting schedules.

You may have to involve the court if orders aren’t followed

If your former spouse doesn’t obey the Court orders, you may need to explore a contempt proceeding—to enforce the Court orders.  Typically this involves failure to divide pensions or retirements, failure to pay support, etc.

Laws change- and this can affect your agreement

Sometimes laws change and can have retroactive effect.  Periodically explore whether or not any changes in the laws may affect you.

You should plan ahead

Put together a post-divorce estate plan—to insure that your wishes are carried out the way you want them to be carried out in the event of your death.  

Get creative with social security

When it is time to consider collecting social security, remember that your previous marriage may allow you considerable options of collecting under your work record, or that of your former spouse, or a combination of both, in order to best maximize your benefits. 

The dog days of summer will soon come to an end and children will return to school. Some will even transition to college in the fall or begin filling out college applications.  Even for parents whose children are young, the thought of college brings excitement, along with anxiety about how they will cover the costs of college.

Any parent is weighing these questions about college expenses:

  • Should the adult child have skin in the game and take on debt to pay a portion, or all of the cost?
  • Did the parents or family members contribute to college savings funds for the child?
  • Should the parents commit to taking on student loans for their child?
  • How are college expenses defined?
  • Do college expenses include college visits, college application fees, admission fees, and travel to and from school?

These questions are further complicated for parents with children of all ages who are going through a divorce. Here’s what you need to know about your rights as a parent with respect to your adult children’s college expenses.

A judge will help determine how to split costs of education in a divorce

In Massachusetts, a parent’s obligation to contribute to college expenses is not presumptive but is left to the discretion of the judge. The Court considers a series of factors in determining whether a parent must financially contribute to their children’s education. These factors include the cost of the college or university, the child’s aptitudes, the child’s living situation, the available resources of the parents and child, the availability of financial aid, and other relevant factors.

There are limits on the amount you can be ordered to pay

Under the Massachusetts’ Child Support Guidelines, no parent shall be ordered to pay college costs in an amount greater than 50% of the undergraduate, in-state resident costs of University of Massachusetts Amherst, unless the Court enters written findings that a parent has the ability to pay a higher amount. The Guidelines define “costs” as mandatory fees, tuition, and room and board for UMass Amherst, as set out in the “Published Annual College Costs Before Financial Aid” in the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges. The Guidelines’ limitation on payment of college expenses is recommended for most cases, but not mandatory.

College expenses can impact other factors in the child support agreement

A parent’s child support obligation may be reduced or terminated when paying for the adult child’s college expenses. However, it is also possible for a parent to pay child support in addition to paying for the adult child’s college expenses.

Whether a parent will have to pay for his or her children’s college expenses varies on a case-by-case basis.

Divorce is complicated- especially with children in the mix, and particularly when college is on the horizon! If you are a parent and involved in any legal matters involving 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 RFC today for help!

When it comes to children; unmarried parents have rights and obligations, too.

Massachusetts Courts have taken pains to see that children of unwed parents and married parents, at least theoretically, are treated alike; and that children of unwed parents should be entitled to the same rights and protections as children of married parents. Here are some of the legal boundaries that maintain equality for unmarried parents in Massachusetts law:

Unmarried parents have rights to see their children, and obligations to support them. Child support obligations can be retroactive to the date of the child’s birth. The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines apply to children of unwed parents in the same way they apply to children of married parents.

  • Unmarried parents have rights to seek, or obligations to provide, health insurance for their children, and to pay uninsured health expenses for them.
  • Unmarried parents may be obligated to provide (or seek for their co-parent to provide) life insurance to secure child support and other child related obligations.
  • The Court has the authority to make orders concerning custody and parenting of children of unwed parents.
  • The Court has the right to enter orders concerning payment of college or extracurricular activities.
  • Children of unwed parents are entitled to receive a share of their parent’s estate if there is no Will or other estate plan in place.
  • Curious about the rights or obligations of yourself or a co-parent? Ryan Faenza Carey is here to help you navigate the law in the best interests of your child(ren). Contact us today.

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.

To read the full Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/child-support-guidelines.