Every four years, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts task force re-evaluates the child support guidelines to determine their effectiveness and what changes need to be made. Last fall, the court launched new guidelines which made the 2018 version extinct. Some of the notable changes can lead to a significant change for both the payor and the payee:

1. The minimum order has decreased from $25 per week to between $12-20 per week. While the change may not seem significant, the relatively small difference can be profound for a parent who is already receiving such a minimal amount and trying to feed and clothe a child.
2. By contrast, the maximum threshold for combined gross income to be used for calculations has increased from $250,000 to $400,000 per year. Depending on income level, the child support order can actually go up or down under the new guidelines even if the income used hasn’t changed.
3. Guidelines now allow for an order up to 40% of payors income under circumstances. In cases where the guidelines suggest an order in excess of 40%, then there is an opportunity for court approved deviation from those guidelines.
4. Orders which cover more than one child are generally higher than they would have been under the previous guidelines.
5. Child care expenses are now more proportional based on the parents’ ability to pay for the first $355 per week per child.
6. Social security benefits are now more defined. Under the 2021 guidelines, social security benefits and SSDI are now considered, especially if one of the parents are receiving benefits for one or more of the children.
7. Additional income can now be used in calculation of child support. Generally speaking, the parties can now include any stock benefit, incentives and overtime when determining a party’s income. We expect that the courts will continue to look at three (3) years of history to determine if that income is an expectation or a one time event.

Love and marriage, love and marriageGo together like a horse and carriageThis I tell you brotherYou can’t have one without the otherLove and marriage, love and marriageIt’s an institute you can’t disparageAsk the local gentryAnd they will say it’s elementaryTry, try, try to separate themIt’s an illusionTry, try, try, and you will only comeTo this conclusionLove and marriage, love and marriageGo together like a horse and carriageDad was told by motherYou can’t have one without the other– Frank SinatraOne of our kids recently asked, “Why do people get married?”  The obvious answer is love, but people actually marry for different reasons. Often, when people are young, they marry for love, the celebration and the hope dream of happily ever after life.   As they get older, people marry for different reasons, including security.Being married does come with some financial benefits. Not only are there often tax advantages, but also pensions, social security, medical insurance and similar benefits. To the contrary, some people do not marry for opposite reasons, such as maintaining a death benefit receiving from a deceased spouse.   Many people don’t realize how important these financial implications are until they are separating and they become more of a consideration.There are also legal benefits to being married. While we will always recommend that individuals have their estate plan in place, being married may also allow for  any next of kin privileges at hospitals (including decision making and visitation),  paternity/ maternity rights,  as well as coverage under the Family Medical Leave Act. One of the most interesting parts of helping establish a Prenuptial Agreement is that it causes people to think about these things before they are married; however, more often than not, we find that people don’t really think about them until they are in their golden years or contemplating divorce. As always, please let us know if we can help you in any way. Warm wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2022.John & Faye

A Solid NO.

Pretty much every time that we talk about child custody or parenting, the phrase “Best Interest of the Child” is either uttered or written. If you have been divorced within the last decade or so, you have attended a parent education class which focuses on co-parenting.

We can actually tell a lot about our clients depending on how they react to the parenting class. Great parents seem to take the class hoping to gain some ideas and bad parents often think that the information doesn’t apply to them.

The principles should be basic but we want to share them nonetheless. If you are a co-parent, there are things that you should never ever do:

1. Never talk negatively about your co- parent. Your child loves both parents and, if you talk trash about their other parent, they will potentially internalize it as disapproval of who they are as an individual;
2.  If the co- parent starts dating someone or gets married, do not criticize that new person to your child. Children need to form their own opinions and build their own relationships;
3. Do not cancel out on parenting time if you can avoid it. Things happen: people get sick, work runs late and emergencies happen. Cancellations should be exceptions, not the standard;
4. Do not set rules in your home that are drastically different from the home they have with your co- parent. Will there be some minor differences? Of course. The best things for a child are stability, structure and predictability. It probably doesn’t make a huge difference if one home eats at 5pm versus 6pm, but bed times that are hours apart will create a grumpy and confused child;
5. Do not spoil your children too much during your parenting time. It’s really tempting to be the “fun parent,” especially if you are not with your child on a daily basis. Kids do not love you because you sneak them extra cookies (though many grandparents would disagree);
6. Do not leave all homework to the other parent. Almost nobody enjoys Common Core math  but chances are that one parent doesn’t mind it as much as another. Work together to use your talents, skills and knowledge whenever possible. Your children will benefit academically and they will that both parents make them their top priority;
7. Do not ignore your children when you have time with them. Consider playing Xbox WITH your child instead of just letting them sit in the basement alone. Quality time is always more important than quantity;
8. Do not forget to have fun together while also teaching life lessons.  Chores are not really fun, but they are important and can be done together. Teach your child to mow the lawn, do laundry and other life skills, then celebrate a job well done together;
9. Do not introduce your child to every person that you date. If you are serious with someone, it might be appropriate that your child gets to know this new person.  Before you introduce that person to your child, talk with the other parent and the child to let them know that it is going to happen so that everyone can support the child emotionally. If your child is not comfortable meeting someone, take that cue and wait. When you do make an introduction, keep it light and short. Allow your child and your person to develop a relationship on their own and at their own pace.

As always,  please let us know if you have any questions about this or any other legal matters.

John & Faye

Work Hard for the $$$.

“Nine a.m. on the hour hand
And she’s waiting for the bell
And she’s looking real pretty
Just wait for her clientele
She works hard for the money
So hard for it, honey”

-Donna Summer

We never really loved the song “She Works Hard for the Money” when it was released waaaaay back in 1983. Don’t get us wrong: we love Donna Summer*; she had a set of pipes on her like no other.

When we listened to the song recently, we started thinking about what our clients go through if and when they go back to work post-divorce. While many parties have worked throughout their marriage, quite a few have opted to stay at home to raise children or to keep the home in order.

Several things may determine whether a spouse who has not worked during the marriage will go back into the workplace, including:
1. The age of the person;
2. Whether the person wants to go back to work (ie. social interaction, intellectual stimulation, wanting to use their education, needing something to do, etc); OR
3. Whether the person needs to go back to work to support themselves, get insurance or maintain a home.

Going back to work can turn out to be a very good thing. It can build confidence, self esteem and will usually make for some great stories regardless of job or career. Divorce Magazine has some great thoughts on this topic too:


As always, please let us know if you have any questions regarding this or any other legal matter.

Warm regards,
John & Faye

* Fun fact: While writing this newsletter, we sat trying to decide whether “Hot Stuff” or “Dim all the Lights” was our favorite Donna Summer song of all time. What do YOU think?

A while back, we noticed that an acquaintance was frequently posting on social media about her divorce and her (soon to be) ex husband She was likely just venting or looking for support from her “friends;” however, this over sharing was public for all to see without any sense of boundaries or common sense. After seeing a few posts, it made sense to provide some unsolicited legal advice that her sharing was, in fact, a really bad idea.

You see, everything that you post or share can be used in a court. Even if someone is not your “friend,” they may be able to find the information pretty easily with a quick Google or Duck search. Similarly, it’s possible that someone who was loyal to the husband passed the information along to the husband by taking a simple screen shot of a “public” or “private” post. Either way, if the attorney for the husband got hold of those posts, he or she likely had a field day with them.

We continue to be surprised by what people post on social media. In the past, we’ve uncovered plenty of dirt on our clients and their exes without being “friends” with them. You can’t afford to pay your child support? Perhaps posting photos of you on vacation is not the best idea. You’re trying to sell three (3), never used Louis Vuitton’s or 20 set of shampoo and conditioner on a yard sale site? Probably not a good idea either, especially if you or your new significant other have been alleged to have committed armed robbery. Yes, we have seen all of these happen.

Social media posts also provide an opportunity for someone to use your information fraudulently. We cringe whenever someone posts their Covid vaccination cards, year of graduation or other personal information. You want to share that you are vaccinated? Awesome but show your sticker or at least cover up you birth date and batch number. Want to play a game that involves your year of high school graduation? Fun, but you’ve now just provided the world your age and likely the name of the town in which you were raised. By providing this personal information, you’ve now made it easier for someone to steal your identity. It’s that easy.

Do you want to know more? Check out this article: