Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Worcester MA Divorce Law Blog

Massachusetts child support: What is the PIP program?

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue works diligently to ensure children are receiving the financial support owed them by their parents. The sad reality is, many parents who are ordered to pay child support fail to do so. Enforcement options are in place that allow the DOR to intercept money meant for the parent and transfer it to the children. The payment intercept program is one way that the DOR does this.

The payment intercept program requires insurance providers to work closely with the DOR to identify individuals who are behind on child support payments and expecting insurance claim payouts. The money can be intercepted and sent to the DOR in order to satisfy the debt. Surely there are those who feel this kind of thing should not be allowed, but the state allows it to ensure children have their basic needs met.

Same-sex spouses going through gray divorce also need QDROs

Some people who are in nontraditional marriages may think that when they go through the divorce process, it is different for them than it is for traditional couples. The truth is, it's not. In Massachusetts, it is the same process for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. When same-sex spouses divorce, particularly just before or during their retirement years, they, just like every other couple in their same position, need to concern themselves with splitting retirement accounts or assets in a way that will not have too big an impact on their standard of living when all is said and done.

Gray divorce, divorce for those aged 50 or greater, is on the rise in the United States and has been for several decades now. Retirement accounts and real estate are often the biggest assets couples in this age group have. That means that retirement accounts are often up for grabs. There is a certain way one must go about accessing funds in these accounts, though, for the purpose of divorce asset division.

When working toward a divorce agreement, take care of yourself

If you are one of the many Massachusetts residents who is considering divorce this year or in the future, you likely have a lot on your plate. It can be very easy to lose yourself when you are so concerned about figuring out the best way to go about your divorce and worried about what your life will look like when you are done. Now and when you are ready to start working toward your divorce agreement, take time to take care of yourself. Your health and well-being matters.

Divorce is stressful. It may be the most stressful thing you will ever go through. This stress is enough to unhinge the most rational and composed adults. When the process and the pressure becomes too much, it is very easy to make poor decisions that can leave you with a divorce settlement that does not work well in your favor. No one wants that -- except maybe your soon-to-be ex.

What might a visitation schedule look like?

Following divorce or separation, not all parents achieve the level of child custody that they would like. Some parents in Massachusetts are only granted visitation time, even though the national trend is toward shared parenting -- meaning as close to equal parenting time as circumstances warrant. Nevertheless, that goal doesn't fit every family profile. When a parent is limited to visitation time, what might a visitation a schedule look like?

Truthfully, there is no standard visitation schedule. The parent granted visitation just needs to have access to his or her children roughly 20 percent of the time. How that works out may be different for every family. Often, visitation schedules include:

  • Alternating weekends
  • Extended holiday visits
  • One weeknight visit or overnight stay

New alimony laws could affect peoples' retirement savings

After the new tax laws regarding spousal support were announced earlier this year, it is hard to go a week without hearing how it will affect people if they do not finalize their divorces by year's end. Under current tax laws, those paying alimony -- whether they reside in Massachusetts or elsewhere -- are permitted to use it as a deduction on their taxes, while those receiving it have to report it as income. For those who divorce in 2019, that is going to change.

For those couples who finalize their divorces in 2019, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will eliminate the tax deduction for alimony payers and no longer require alimony recipients to report it as income. This law change will not affect those who are already divorced or who finalize their marriage dissolutions by Dec. 31, 2018. Some people think this change is a good thing, while others are not too thrilled about it.

Placed on disability, a child support order still stands

When health reasons prevent a person from working, he or she may qualify for disability benefits. The amount one receives may be somewhat limited, but it should be enough to live on. What some Massachusetts residents may struggle with is paying child support while on this limited income. They think being placed on disability means that their child support orders are invalidated, but that is simply not true.

If placed on disability, any child support order that is in place still stands. Those who wish to seek modifications to such orders may do so, but until a new order is written, the current order stands and needs to be paid in full. If child support does not get paid per the order, it is possible to garnish disability wages -- unless the disability benefit falls under SSI.

Why can the state put child support payments on hold?

When a parent is doing what he or she can to provide financial support for his or her children, it can be infuriating to see the state hold funds and not release them for an extended period of time. Why is it that the state of Massachusetts can put a hold on child support payments? Can this be avoided?

There are actually a number of reasons the state will hold child support payments before releasing them to the receiving parent. When they do, they can hold funds anywhere from 14 days to 180 days. The reasons the state will hold funds are:

  • An enforcement action is under review
  • The payer submits a support check totaling $5,000 or more
  • The payer's previous checks have bounced
  • The payer pays more than what is owed
  • The state does not have the correct address for the payee
  • There is no active support case on record

When same-sex spouses divorce, there can be complications

Some same-sex couples who fought for the right to marry in Massachusetts and across the country may have been shocked and disappointed to win that right only to have their marriages come to an end. While it may be a sad reality that same-sex spouses have as much chance of divorcing as opposite sex couples, there can be added complications in a same-sex relationship. When these complications arise, it is best to have legal advice in case one's rights are in jeopardy.

Among the complexities of some same-sex divorces is the fact that many couples had committed relationships for years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the right of same-sex couples to marry is constitutionally protected. During that time, these couples may have bonded in the traditional ways married couples do but without the benefit of the legal protections of marriage. However, courts have a wide range of latitude when it comes to periods of cohabitation before a same-sex marriage and how that period of time is treated for property division purposes. Some courts will include perhaps decades of cohabitation prior to marriage, which may place bank accounts, homes and the potential for spousal support in question.

Man who lied about income to avoid child support caught

Providing the money one's children need to cover basic necessities and some extra expenses can be challenging for many parents in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Numerous individuals who know they will have to pay child support following the end of a marriage or relationship may be concerned that the amount they are ordered to pay will be too much for them to keep up with or more than is really necessary to cover their children's needs. For these individuals, it may be tempting to fudge their income numbers so they do not have to pay too much, but doing this can have significant consequences.

A man in another state recently learned that not being honest about his income could cost him a lot more than money. The 40-year-old father of one reportedly told a family court judge back in 2013 that a schedule change resulted in a loss of income and even went as far as to file false payroll statements with the court to support his claim. In doing so, he received a child support order that was less than it should have been and he ended up withholding over $15,000 in support from his child's mother.

What are the goals of divorce mediation?

When getting a divorce, there are a few ways to go about it. It is possible for each party to have their attorneys negotiate terms. It is possible for couples to take their cases to court. Finally, it is possible for couples to take the issue into their own hands and utilize divorce mediation. Why would divorcing couples in Massachusetts choose mediation?

There are a lot of reasons to want to keep a divorce case from going to court. The most significant of them being time savings, money savings and privacy protection. It can also make the whole ordeal a hostile one. Not everyone wants to fight things out. There are those who want swift divorces with settlements reached in an amicable manner.

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