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

Are your parenting plans set for summer? Now is the time to check

Sharing custody of your children with your ex is not always the easiest thing to manage. Parenting plans are put in place with the hopes that they will be good long-term, but sometimes, they end up needing changing. With Massachusetts residents starting to get their summer plans in place, now would be a good time to re-evaluate current custody arrangements in order to make sure they align with expected schedule changes and family vacations.

The basic terms of a shared custody agreement are usually pretty solid. It is typically up to the parents to fill in the finer details of how the arrangement will actually work. Some parents find that they need different parenting plans in place for summer vacation than they do during the school year. If you feel this is what your family needs, you can request it when first figuring out custody arrangements. If it is something you come to feel is necessary down the line, modifying a parenting plan may be a possibility.

Child support: The R. Kelly case

News about R. Kelly and his fight over his financial obligation to his kids is all over the internet right now. Regardless of whether Massachusetts residents are fans of this individual, there are a few things to be learned from his child support case. Those lessons are: fight for a fair agreement from the get-go, pay up in full and on time, and seek a modification if necessary.

R. Kelly was recently released from jail where he was held for a total of three days for failing to pay over $161,000 in child support to his ex. He has repeatedly claimed that he lacks the funds to maintain his $21,000-a-month support obligation. A news report claims that a fan gifted him the money to pay his bail and the child support owed, so that he could be released.

How to know if divorce mediation is not the right choice

Numerous Massachusetts residents who are looking to end their marriages do not want to go to court. Divorce mediation may be a good fit for some couples and will allow them to keep their cases from going to trial, but it may not work out so well for others. How can one know if mediation is not the right choice?

A recently released article discussed six specific things that would disqualify a couple from utilizing divorce mediation -- a few of which will be discussed here. The first item on the list was domestic violence. When one spouse is physically, emotionally or financially abusive, that individual may use that to get what he or she wants in mediation. This would leave the victim with an unfair divorce settlement. Things said in mediation could also result in the victim facing retribution of some sort, and it's just not worth it.

Child support is negotiable

You are going through a divorce and you have children. You just want to make sure your kids have what they need going forward and the state of Massachusetts agrees with you, which is why there is a basic calculation for determining how much child support should be paid in any given divorce case. Did you know that the number received from that calculation is just the floor amount of what you may have to pay or what you may receive? Child support beyond this base amount is negotiable.

Child support is one of those things that you and your soon-to-be-ex may struggle to agree on. It happens in a lot of divorce cases. One of you may end up walking away feeling that you or your children have been cheated in a way if you simply accept what is being offered because you do not want to fight.

More people are choosing divorce mediation over litigation

Divorce litigation is not a thing of the past, as numerous individuals in Massachusetts still need to go to court to resolve certain issues regarding their dissolution settlements. However, more people are choosing to forgo litigation and are turning to divorce mediation to end their marriages. Why?

It is difficult not to get all up in arms when having to go to court. No one really wants to fight things out in court. It is stressful, time-consuming, opens a couple's personal business up to the court of public opinion and offers no guarantee that one will get what he or she wants out of the divorce proceedings.

Can an alimony order be changed or canceled?

Following a divorce, it is not completely uncommon for one party to need spousal support to help him or her get back on his or her feet financially. The state of Massachusetts allows the awarding of alimony, usually on a temporary basis. After an alimony order is issued, one might think that it will be in place as is written until the term is up. The truth is, these plans can be modified or even canceled under the right circumstances.

Spousal support may be awarded to the spouse who has not been the primary breadwinner in the marriage. This individual might need money to go back to school in order to help him or her achieve a decent paying job. This individual might be used to a certain standard of living that the court says his or her former spouse needs to help him or her maintain. This individual may struggle to find work or affordable housing -- among other things. Depending on one's personal circumstances, alimony may be awarded to help one transition from married to single life, and if the amount awarded does not seem to be enough, it may be possible to ask for a support increase.

Massachusetts child support: What can it be used for?

Financially supporting one's child or children following divorce can prove challenging for some primary custody holders. The state of Massachusetts requires that both parents continue to provide for their children after a marriage ends and may order one parent to pay child support to the other. What can the parent who receives this support use the money for?

Child support is meant to cover a child's basic needs. So, it can be used to pay for housing, food, transportation costs, school expenses, clothing and medical care. If childcare is needed, the child support funds can also be used to cover that expense.

How does stepparent adoption work?

With divorce rates being relatively high in Massachusetts and the United States in general, blended families resulting from remarriage are becoming the new norm. Being a stepparent is not always the easiest of things. It takes time to build a relationship with one's stepchildren and not having any legal claim to those children can make certain situations complicated -- such as when dealing with a medical emergency or handling problems that may arise at school, among a number of other issues that commonly come up when raising kids. Stepparent adoption can help bring a blended family closer together and give stepparents the legal rights they need to manage problems that come up with their spouses' children.

How does stepparent adoption work? It can either be a relatively easy process or it can get quite complicated. It all depends on the noncustodial parent's feelings on the matter. If there are no objections, the adoption process can be completed fairly quickly. If the other parent does object to the adoption request, finalizing an adoption can be difficult.

When mental health can affect child custody

Numerous adults in Massachusetts suffer from mental illness. Such issues range in severity from minor depression to a total loss of reality. When a person's mental state limits his or her ability to care for him or herself, there is a need to question if he or she has the ability to care for his or her own children. This issue may be brought up during the divorce process if one spouse believes the other spouse's mental health status should affect the final child custody arrangement.

Millions of Americans live with mental illness and are able to live productive lives. They go to work, they socialize, they have families and they take care of their children -- among other things. Medication and talk therapy are extremely helpful to numerous individuals. Unfortunately, it is believed that the fear of losing one's children prevents some people from seeking the help that they need.

Child support adjustment may follow income increase

The minimum wage in Massachusetts was recently increased to $12 an hour. It is expected to continually increase up to $15 an hour by the year 2024. The goal is to give the people of Massachusetts a livable wage, but with this change in income level will also come an increase in expenses. One's child support obligation, for example, may increase.

According to a recent report, 840,000 individuals are expected to receive pay raises with the new minimum wage increase. Obviously, minimum wage earners are excited about the change, but business owners are worried about how this will impact their ability to hire, their customers and their bottom lines. The truth is, more than 840,000 workers may receive pay raises as employers will be pressured to increase the wages of their other hourly employees as well. Employers will need to make adjustments in their businesses to make up for the cost.

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