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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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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!

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Parenting on Pot: Custody under the Massachusetts Marijuana Tax Act

The perspectives of judges regarding marijuana use by a parent has been easing over the last 10 years as decriminalization and medical use have become our norm. With recent changes, some have asked us how it will effect custody and visitation. From a recent news blast from the Bristol Probate and Family Court:

Section 7 (d) of the Marijuana Tax Act addresses personal use of marijuana and its effect on child custody proceedings and provides:
Absent clear, convincing and articulable evidence that the person’s actions related to marijuana have created an unreasonable danger to the safety of a minor child, neither the presence of cannabinoid components or metabolites in a person’s bodily fluids nor conduct permitted under this chapter related to the possession, consumption, transfer, cultivation, manufacture or sale of marijuana, marijuana products or marijuana accessories by a person charged with the well-being of a child shall form the sole or primary basis for substantiation, service plans, removal or termination or for denial of custody, visitation or any other parental right or responsibility.
Section 7 (d) of Chapter 94G follows established case law regarding the use of marijuana and child custody proceedings. There needs to be clear and convincing evidence of a nexus between a parent’s drug use and the parent’s ability to parent a child in order for the parent to be found unfit and parental rights terminated.

For more information, please check out our website www.wjslegal.com or call us at (508)319-1529.

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National Holidays

 

 

 

 

There are some days on the calendar that we all recognize as holidays (even if we don’t celebrate them): December 25th,  October 31st and July 4th; however, there many obscure “National Days” of which you are probably not aware. For instance, did you know that May 19th in National Devil’s Food Cake Day or that August 5th is National Underwear day? Chances are good that you have no idea that the first Monday after New Year’s, when everyone returns to work, is considered by many people to be National Divorce Day.

Divorce Day has become a “thing” over the last couple of decades. Nobody is truly sure what it is about that date that makes it such an attractive time to call an attorney to start the divorce process.  It could be seasonal depression, conflict over the holidays, or just wanting to follow a different path in the new year. While nobody gets married hoping that their marriage ends in divorce, it is, unfortunately, a reality for approximately half of the population in any given year.

Divorce is not always terrible ending. We always tell people that divorce is a legal transaction that involves a “math problem, (aka figuring out who gets what)” and making sure that the children are in the best environment possible; when parties can focus on those two things, not the emotion and drama, everyone is happier.

Some of our favorite cases are divorces because it can bring out the best in people. We see people work together, focus on their children, and follow the path towards an alternative happy ending.  One of our favorite moments ever occurred right after one couple had their Separation Agreement approved by the judge as they hugged and walked out arm in arm. We often see parents make plans to take their children out for dinner together the night that they are divorced to remind their children that they are still a family. While this is not necessarily the norm, it is certainly the ideal.

What else is ideal? Celebrating April 14th as National Ex-Spouse Day.

Whatever winter holidays you chose to celebrate, we wish you a very happy holiday season. As always, please visit our website www.wjslegal.com or call us at (508)319-1529 for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Room Where it Happened

“No one really knows how the
Parties get to yessssss
The pieces that are sacrificed in
Ev’ry game of chessssss
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in
The room where it happens.”

-Lin Manuel Miranda

I have a friend who lives in a charming town located a couple of hours outside of London, England.  She lived in the United States for some time and still has an acute interest in what happens here. I recently asked her about how her local friends, family and colleagues perceived our President- Elect, Donald Trump.  Part of her response included this inquiry, “Giving some states more votes doesn’t seem fair. Surely one person, one vote works best?”

Electoral and popular votes usually point in the same direction, but not always.   Regardless of whether you favor it, the process was established by the Founding Fathers many, many years ago. We have journals and drafts which documented their process, but nobody knows for sure what fully happened in the negotiating sessions. There are two primary theories to why the Electoral College was created:

The most known theory is that it was developed to balance the influence of the small states with the larger ones.  Current sub-beliefs are that that the process was developed to account for the slave population in the South. Although slaves were unable to vote, inclusion of them greatly increased a state’s population (even though they were only counted as 3/5 of a person), the state’s representation in Congress and their number of electoral votes.

An alternative theory, and the one recognized by the National Achieves and Records Administration, is that the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College as part of the Constitution as a compromise. Many historians believe that there were heated arguments about how a President should be selected. The exclusive group, which included Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, argued whether Congress should appoint a President or qualified citizens should be allowed to vote.

More likely than not, the reasoning of the Founding Fathers was a combination of both reasons. We will probably never know the full story, because none of us were in the room where it happened.
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