Middlesex County Child Custody Lawyer
Assisting Parents Throughout Central Massachusetts With Custody And Child Support
Massachusetts law calls for acting in the best interests of the child when determining custody and visitation. The court reviews the specifics of your family’s situation and makes a decision based on what will benefit your child the most.
Of course, a family court judge does not know your child as well as you and the child’s other parent does. That is why we strive to reach an agreement on custody and child support issues through negotiations. By resolving these important matters without litigating, parents retain more control over the structure of their child’s post-divorce life.
The court does attempt to keep both parents involved in a child’s life, although it does not automatically aim for a 50-50 split in terms of actual time with a child. Whether you expect to work out custody and support arrangements with your child’s other parent, or you feel litigation may be required, it is critical to enlist the services of an experienced Middlesex County child custody attorney.
In addition to initial child custody and support orders, we represent parents seeking modification of custody or support when there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
The legal team at the Law Offices of Renee Lazar in Bedford, Massachusetts, works to ensure that children benefit from the best that both parents have to offer.
We will work with you and your child’s other parent to develop a parenting plan, which is merely an agreement that outlines a parenting arrangement used by both parents. Parenting plans typically outline the following aspects of a child’s custody and visitation:
- Where the child will live
- Who has the child on which days
- Who makes major decisions regarding education, health care, welfare and other aspects of a child’s life
- What will happen if one parent’s situation changes
Lexington Child Support Attorney
Child support in Massachusetts follows a formula that is spelled out in the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines are applied whether the parents are married or unmarried, and they are designed to provide the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents remained together.
The court determines the amount of child support that a non-custodial parent will pay based upon the parent’s adjusted gross income and the number of children involved.
Key changes to the new child support guidelines effective September 15, 2017 include:
- Reduction in Child Support for Adult Children Ages 18-23
The 2017 Guidelines addresses the confusion surrounding college expenses and child support for adult children (Ages 18-23) in Massachusetts. The 2017 guidelines provides for a twenty-five (25%) reduction in child support for adult children (Ages 18-23) across Massachusetts. The 25% reduction does not apply to 18-year-old children in high school but takes effect after adult children graduate from high school. The new rule imposes a presumptive cap on child support at 75% of a standard guidelines order, however, judges still have the authority to exercise discretion for ordering child support for adult children.
- Presumptive Cap on College Contribution: 50% of the cost of UMass Amherst
The 2017 Guidelines places a presumptive cap on each parent’s college contribution at 50% of the annual cost of tuition, room, board and fees at the University of Massachusetts (“UMass”) Amherst. The new rule does not require parents to contribute to their adult children’s college expenses. Instead, the rule provides that if parents are ordered to contribute to college, then said contributions should not exceed 50% of the annual cost of UMass Amherst unless the Court enters findings supporting a deviation.
- Eliminating the “In Between” Category for Parents with 33-50% Parenting Time
The 2017 Guidelines removes the “in-between” category for parents sharing parenting time equally or approximately equally (i.e. 33-50%). The prior 2013 Guidelines previously provided for a deviation when a payor had less than one-third (1/3) of the time and an average calculation for cases where parenting time was between 33% and 50% of the time. The 2017 Guidelines address concerns that prior guidelines increased litigation and shifted the focus from a parenting plan that was in the best interests of the children to a contest about the parenting time to decrease child support. The 2017 guidelines attempts to clarify the deviation factor and highlight the importance of the appropriate use of judge’s discretion to deviate from the guidelines based on the unique circumstances of a particular family.
- Capped Adjustment for Child Support Calculation for Health Care Costs and Child Care insurance and child care
The 2017 Guidelines takes a “share the burden” approach which places a presumptive cap on medical insurance and child care deductions at 15% of the total order. This provides for appropriate adjustments for health care and child care deductions under the new formula for parents struggling to pay out-of-pocket for these expenses. The 2017 guidelines do not provide a “dollar-for-dollar” credit but will make appropriate adjustments to avoid these health care and child care expenses overtaking or eliminating the support order.
- Self-Employment: Imputation of Income and Attribution of Income
The 2017 Guidelines provides a new approach to dealing with income that parents fail to report for tax purposes and it clarifies how to handle cases involving self-employed parents in which unreported income (often in the form of personal expenses paid by a business) are common. Imputed income is income that a parent actually receives but does not appear on tax documents (i.e. housing benefits, automobile expenses, or other personal living expenses paid by the business). Attributed income results from a finding that either parent is capable of working and is unemployed or underemployed. The emphasis of most of the changes is on including additional income when appropriate, such as self-employment income, undocumented income and clarifying will draw a clear distinction between “imputed” income and “attributed” income.
- Alimony and Unallocated Support
The 2017 Guidelines encourages the Court and the parties to consider the tax-effect of support when choosing between child support, alimony and unallocated support.
- Raising the Minimum Amount of Child Support to $25 per week
The 2017 Guidelines raises the minimum presumptive child support order from $18.46/week to $25/week.
We can answer your questions regarding child support and child custody during a free, no-obligation consultation. Contact us to schedule an appointment with our experienced family law lawyer.