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. 

Dealing with divorce and protecting your children at the same time

It is not uncommon for a divorced or divorcing individual at some point in his or her life, either during or after divorce, to try and “erase” the past and start again; to pretend that the past hasn’t happened and try to chart out a new course for the future avoiding history as it occurred. In circumstances where no children are involved, this new course or direction may occur without too much collateral damage; however, if children are involved, it can be devastating.

 

Sometimes, a parent can actually take this effort too far, in the process emotionally or physically distancing him/herself from a child as well. That parent may stop seeing or being as involved in the life of their child(ren), and oftentimes financially withdraws support for them as well. For parents who had previously been involved in the child’s life, that can cause incredible trauma. This is a heartbreaking situation for everyone—the departing parent, the available parent who must try to compensate, but especially for the child who will bear the scars and endure this heartbreak for the rest of his or her life.

Here’s the bottom line: The decision to be a parent is permanent and irrevocable. The decision to have a child carries with it multiple responsibilities, not the least of which is providing love, emotional support, financial support and guidance to the child. These responsibilities are not something which a parent can later “undo” or “quit”—parenting is forever.

 

All parents matter, and the best interests of the child should be considered paramount.   The responsibilities of parenting should be borne by the adults who brought the child into the world, and not by the innocent child. If you find yourself struggling with divorce to the harm of your child(ren), there are many resources you can seek including counseling to help avoid long-standing emotional harm on your family.

How will I see my divorce in 20 years?  What will I wish I had done differently, and what will I be glad I did?  How will it feel?

Here are some things you can look forward to, many years after your divorce; This information stemming from my many years advising and guiding clients through divorce, but also my own personal divorce experience and learnings.

You’ll have distanced yourself from the emotion

The raw emotion will be barely recognizable– it will seem like a distant spec on the horizon. Like childbirth, the horrible parts will be a distant memory, and you will be able to remember and appreciate the positive parts. In fact your children, if you had them, will have their own memories and ideas, which will be much stronger than yours.
You will no longer feel as though ‘I just want this to be over with,’ because it will be indeed over. Time heals all wounds, if you let it.

You’ll be glad you found kindness

You will not regret a single kindness done or spoken toward your spouse, your ex-spouse or your children, and you will wish you had done these things more often. The times you took the ‘high road.’ will come back to you a hundredfold.

You will regret the things you did and said out of anger, spite, hostility, selfishness, hate and righteousness.

You’ll be able to look back with clarity

You will have a greater understanding of what drew you together with your former spouse, what kept you together, and what broke you apart.

You will truly acknowledge that it took two to tango– two to make things work and two to break things apart.

If you have healed (which you should have done), you will wish the best for your ex and have a greater understanding than you ever had, of what you did wrong, and what you did right.

You will be able to see the good in the past, appreciate, and forgive

You will be able to admit your mistakes, forgive yourself and forgive your ex, recognizing that you are both wonderful, and flawed, individuals.

You will appreciate more than ever before, the positive things which came from your divorce, and the ways in which you are enriched from divorce; strength is indeed borne of tragedy.

You will see in your children every day the scars you helped make, and the good character you helped build.

You will be able to remember with affection the wonderful parts of the person you once loved, and be able to actually remember the affection you felt, as well as the pain, and the wonderful qualities of that person, despite the pain and heartache that came later.

It helps to have an experienced divorce attorney who can support you during this difficult time and see you through the rough parts. If you’re thinking about, ready for, or in the midst of a divorce, contact Ryan Faenza Carey for a consultation.

Divorce is messy, overwhelming, scary, and hard. A qualified attorney can help clients navigate the process, but the most successful divorces occur when clients help themselves. Here are the things we strongly recommend to anyone facing or currently undergoing a divorce. We are certain it relieves the burden-both long and short term- of this major life event.

  1. Engage an attorney you trust, tell your attorney the truth about everything, and follow his/her instructions and recommendations.
  1. Understand that divorce is a process and does take time; buckle up for the ride and resist the urge to “just get it over with.”
  1. Leave your kids out of it—protect them, nurture their relationship with you and with your soon to be ex and take the high road in all respects—parent them first.
  1. Be reasonable. Spending $100 in legal fees to chase $50 is a waste of your time. Be willing to cut your losses where it is practical to do so. Don’t go to trial or fight endlessly over something for which you have a low likelihood of success.
  1. Decide what matters most, and negotiate your divorce agreement according to those priorities.
  1. Have reasonable expectations. In a good divorce, BOTH parties walk away unhappy. You will not get everything you want. Be prepared to compromise.
  1. Reach an agreement before appearing before a judge, if at all possible. Even a bad agreement is better than a good trial. You and your spouse, with the help of competent attorneys, are in the best position to negotiate a divorce agreement that is tailor made to your family. You will not have that luxury with a Judge.
  1. Be civil, and don’t burn your bridges. Ultimately the best thing for you, your soon to be ex and your children is for you and your soon to be ex to communicate and be able to deal civilly with one another. The investment you make in having a civil relationship will come back to you a hundred-fold in the future.  Don’t make anyone the bad guy—even if they deserve it. Civility is a huge investment in reaching resolution and staying out of Court both now, and in the future.

If you’re facing a divorce and in need of legal support, contact RFC today.

  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.