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Ch-ch-changes to Child Support

Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines are changing quicker than David Bowie used to transform into Ziggy Stardust. Starting in September, 2017, there will be massive changes to how child support is calculated. There are a lot of changes in store, but some of the highlights that will be most interesting to our clients:

A blanket 25% reduction in support obligations for children between the ages of 18-23;
A presumptive cap on college contributions, for each parent, at 50% of the cost of attending UMass Amherst (aka “The UMass Formula”);
Removal of modified support based on parenting time; and
Acceptance of unreported income, thereby making it easier to “impute” income.

Like all new rules and guidelines, it will take a while to determine how some of the more detailed changes actually get applied in real cases. Please email or call us if we can help you to better understand how the guideline changes might apply to your specific situation.

A helpful link from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
http://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legal-res/law-lib/laws-by-subj/about/support.html

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Which is Correct: He, She, or They?

“It depends.”

Yes, that is a very lawyerly answer that we give so often and under so many circumstances; however, we cannot, as lawyers, tell someone whether to identify as a male or female.

People recently highlighted a family with a six year old transgender daughter. The parents made the choice to allow their child, who was assigned male at birth, to fully transition to a female at the age of four. Although it was surprising to read about a child who had transitioned so young, it is not shocking that a child of that age made it clear to their parents who they were and how they identify.

Transgender laws are developing.  Many of the current laws specific to the transgender community involve civil rights, but others include change of name and hate crimes.  We expect that many other areas of law will continue to evolve and change as well.

Some resources that might be useful:

http://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legal-res/law-lib/laws-by-subj/about/transgender.html

http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.pdf

http://www.glaad.org/transgender/transfaqhttps://

www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/transgender-people-and-law

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Prepare for College Post-divorce

Ahhhh, college.  It was a great time with new found freedoms. We could eat french fries for lunch and dinner, yet not gain any weight. Weekends started on Wednesday and we never went out before 10pm. Our planning for the future consisted of mid-terms and finals, not 401k and flexible health spending accounts.  This wasn’t just us, right?

If we went back to college now, we would be a lot more serious.  The costs have skyrocketed and students are more competitive than ever. Our 40 something year old selves didn’t have the same pressure that the kids today have in part because college wasn’t as expensive. Had we known, we might have done things differently. We might have even start putting some of the money that we earned from part-time jobs into a Roth IRA instead of investing in a long gone 12 pack of beer (probably not).

We always recommend preparing for how you will pay college expenses long before the application process begins. It’s never too early to start planning for your child, especially if you need to prepare for college post-divorce.

The Massachusetts Bar Association provided some useful information about things to consider especially if are divorcing or already divorced:

http://www.massbar.org/publications/lawyers-journal/2015/may/allocating-college-education-expenses-in-divorce

 

Please let us know if we can help you with the negotiation and planning process or answer any questions that you may have. We even know an amazing person to help you select the best college based on family finances and educational goals; we would be happy to refer you in the right direction!

 

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What is in a Name?

 

2016 was the year of “celebrity” deaths.  One passing that went fairly unnoticed was Richard Trentlage, who wrote the Oscar Meyer Wiener song.

Let’s be totally honest: growing up with a name like “Faye Weiner” can be a challenge. Nobody ever knows how to pronounce or spell it and more than every once in a while, someone will sing that catchy song to you like it’s the first time that anyone has ever thought of doing it.

Having a unique name can be rich with family history and personality; however, if you want to change your name, it is very easy to do through legal proceeding.

The most common type of procedure involves a change of marital status. At the time of marriage or divorce, Massachusetts law allows a person to change surname. You cannot force someone to change their surname; however, there is a growing trend of individuals who strongly want their (soon to be) ex-spouse relinquish their married name at the time of divorce. A while back we posted an article on Facebook and Twitter discussing this topic:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/Wjslegal/posts
https://twitter.com/WJSlegal

We often see our clients struggle with their post-divorce surname; the biggest reasons that we hear are concerns about having the same last name as the children, avoiding the process of changing all accounts and legal documents, as well as easier recognition within the community.  Either using your married or maiden name is acceptable and common.

Absent change of marital status, all you need is an original birth certificate, a completed petition to the probate and family court in your county, and a filing fee. Once the documents and fee are submitted, you need to attend a quick judicial hearing. It’s that easy.

….and for those who actually read to the end of this blog, a quick history lesson: the actual last name  “Weiner” is pronounced differently depending from where your ancestors migrated. In this case, the family name is related to wine producers (aka “Wine-er”) in European vineyards.

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Five Rings.

We are going on a limb with this one: Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen likely have a prenuptial agreement. We haven’t seen it, but hopefully, he made provisions for him to retain all of his Super Bowl rings and his MVP trophies if their marriage ends.

 

If at the time of the marriage, Brady disclosed that he owns three Super Bowl rings and a couple of trophies, but didn’t make provisions for the future? In that case, his wife may have a claim for rings and trophies for the fourth and fifth as marital assets. OUCH (especially for number five).

 

We love prenuptials for average couples because they create an opportunity for them to have uncomfortable conversations about their priorities and financial future. Have you been married before? Do you have children? Do you have some savings or a home? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then a prenuptial is an important legal protection for you.

 

Protections typically include division of property, alimony, debt, life insurance, health insurance, and what financial support children from a prior relationship might get during the marriage or when the parent dies. In order for a prenuptial to be valid, the following conditions must be met:

  •          Both parties must make full disclosure of all assets and liabilities;
  •          The agreement must be fair and reasonable at the time entered into by the parties;
  •          Both parties must be represented by counsel;
  •          Both parties must sign the document prior to the wedding;
  •          Both parties must sign the document of their own free will;
  •          Both parties must have the capacity or ability to sign the document; and
  •          The agreement must also be fair and reasonable at the time of divorce.

 

Given the second look at the time of divorce, it would be unlikely that our GOAT would lose his fourth and fifth rings if they were not protected in a prenuptial. That would just be unfair and unreasonable, wouldn’t it?

 

On to SIX!