Divorce and other breakups are tough, especially when there are children involved.  For children, there is grief, fear, loss, sadness and confusion.  Want to do right by your children and make the best of a difficult situation?

  • Shield and protect your children from adult matters such as finances, division of property or who is at fault in the breakup.  Your children deserve to have a happy and healthy childhood; an important part of that is their relationship with their parents. Your friends, family, therapist or other adults should be your sounding board, not your children. 
  • Reality check!  Going through a divorce or break-up can be a long, difficult and emotionally taxing process.  Take time to take care of yourself, while realizing that this too shall pass.  Do your best not to allow the months it could take to address and resolve your divorce take away from the years you have with your child.
  • In an age-appropriate manner and notwithstanding the above, involve the children in matters that affect them to the extent that you and your co-parent agree.  Give your child a calendar so that they can see when they are at each parent’s home.  Help them choose gifts and/or cards to give to their other parent for special occasions.  Let them feel important and a part of things. 
  • Let the children know that parents are forever.  Help them understand that the adults may be ending their relationship, but not the relationship between the children and their parents.  You may not be spouses or significant others anymore, but you will always be co-parents. Do your best to have a united front with your co-parent; even with difficult matters, such as discipline.  Your child, although they may not be willing to admit it, will be comforted and reassured that you’re working together for your child’s best interest. 
  • Respect your co-parent.  Forgiveness can be powerful; blame, negativity and/or bitterness has no place in how you and your co-parent effectively raise your children.  Be cognizant of the reality that you choose this person to be your child’s parent and respect their role in your child’s life. Children can benefit from having two different, but very important, people in their life. 
  • Reassure your children.  Let them know their feelings of grief, fear, loss, sadness and confusion are normal.   Understand that you’re all working through a “new normal” and you’ll have new schedules, traditions and celebrations. If appropriate, provide an opportunity for therapeutic assistance (for yourself as well as your children).
  • Communicate with your co-parent.  Take the high road, regardless of the path your co-parent has chosen.  Rise above adult conflicts and continue to parent your children the best you can.  In tense or emotional situations, do not be reactive.  Take a deep breath and honestly assess your thoughts and potential response.  How would you want this issue to be handled if the shoe was on the other foot? How would you have handled this issue if you were an intact family? Put the children first.

We at Ryan Faenza Carey believe that children should come first; it’s imperative that children have a positive, healthy childhood regardless of their family dynamics.  Be the best you can be, your children are counting on you.     

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 through your Agreement or Judgment after the divorce to carry out the terms of the divorce. Typically, parties 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. 

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 cited, 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 if 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 detriment of your child(ren), there are many resources you can seek including counseling to help avoid long-standing emotional harm on your family.