New 2016-2017 Child Support Guidelines

Where Do the Guidelines Come From?

Every four years the Massachusetts Child Support Task Force reviews the Child Support guidelines and and releases a new version. As of September 15, 2017, the latest version of the guidelines will take effect. The new guidelines are substantially similar to the previous version, with some notable changes. Here are a few that I would like to highlight.

Parenting Time

The 2012 guidelines promulgated three different methods for calculating the weekly support amount. The first with the child spending the majority of the time with one parent, and about one-third of the time with the other; a second where the parents split time with the child equally; and a third method, where the child spends more than one-third, but less than one-half of the time with one parent.

The new guidelines do away with the third method. The reasoning behind this deletion is that by incorporating the intermediate method, the Task Force undermined their goal of creating uniform support orders. More importantly (in this lawyer's mind), it fostered disputes between parents who tried to minimize their child support obligations at the expense of a parenting plan that was in the best interest of the child. The new, simplified, plan hopes to bring parents to the table to implement a parenting plan that works for both parties, and is in the best interest of the child. Only then, will they take their plan to the judge to implement a support order.

Self-Employment Income

Many self-employed workers or business owners take advantage of numerous Federal and State deductions to reduce their tax liability. With regard to child support, the new guidelines recognize that a judge must look at these deductions to see if they are “reasonable and necessary to the production of income.” Where they are not income producing deductions, a judge may apply those amounts to the available combined gross income for the purposes of calculating the child support amount.

Minimum Order

Weighing the plight of low-income parents against the responsibility for each parent to provide for the child, the guidelines historically provided a minimum weekly support amount. Since 2002, the minimum weekly support was $18.46. The new guideline raise this weekly support amount to $25 per week, based on an individual that has a combined gross weekly income of $115 per week.

What does this mean?

This is just a snapshot of the changes. The principal purpose of the guidelines is to ensure that both parents are fulfilling their obligation to support their child, and to promote parental behavior that is in the child's best interest. I think these changes are a step in the right direction. For a closer look at the guidelines follow this link: http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/child-support/2017-child-support-guidelines.pdf.

If you have questions about a child support issue, please feel free to contact this office.

Snowed in.

After this weekend's Nor'easter, most of us are left chipping away the ice on our walkways. But who is responsible for clearing that snow anyways? Up until recently, a homeowner was not responsible for a slip and fall resulting from the natural accumulation of snow and ice. The "Massachusetts Rule," as it was called, changed with the 2010 decision that charged the property owner with a duty to "act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others" with regard to the accumulation of snow and ice. This decision did not apply an additional burden on a homeowner, as they already had a duty to make the premises safe if they reasonably knew there was a dangerous condition on the property. It did, however, eliminate a defense that property owners relied on for years.

Some cities will define what is a reasonable time frame for clearing snow, but if you are expecting anyone on your property, including the mailman, you had better make a reasonable effort to make it safe for someone to pass onto the property. 

An ancillary issue that sometimes crops up regarding shoveling snow is, whether a landlord can force their tenant to take care of snow removal. The answer there is an unequivocal no, pursuant to 105 CMR 410.452, which states that a landlord "shall maintain all means of egress at all times in a safe, operable condition and shall keep all exterior stairways, fire escapes, egress balconies and bridges free of snow and ice." One exception to this rule is if the entrance is independent to the tenant's unit. So, if there is a handshake agreement, or even if the lease states that the tenant will shovel the walkway, the responsibility is ultimately left to the property owner. 

Stay warm out there!

 

If you died, would you leave your children to a high shcool dropout, and a clown?

I'm sure the answer is a resounding, "NO!"

But do you know who would? Danny Tanner would.

For the uninitiated, Danny Tanner was a single father from the 90's TV series, Full House; the original Modern Family. In the show, Danny raises his three daughters mainly with the help of his late wife's brother, and his childhood friend; the dropout and clown, respectively. While I poke fun at their social status, they are by all accounts great for the girls, and de facto parents.

So, imagine Danny dies without a will. The girls would be left without a guardian. The likely result would be that several people would petition the court for guardianship. Anybody who has seen the show could tell you that Danny would want his two buddies to continue watching over the girls, but let's see who else might get into the mix.

Danny's mother, aka Everybody Loves Raymond's mother. Is it really in the girl's best interest to be raised by an elderly woman? What happens when her health starts to fail her while the girls are still minors? Whats more, is that (according to the Full House wiki) Claire Tanner did not have confidence in Danny's ability to raise the children. Plus, she only made 3 appearances in 8 seasons of the show. Is this what Danny would have wanted?

Then we have Danny's sister, Aunt Wendy. Here is another choice that makes sense on its face, but upon further analysis is probably a bad idea. First of all, Wendy is quite the traveler. She collects things from all over the world in her career as a zoologist. All this traveling could lead to absentee parenting, or uprooting the children. Second of all, one of the things that she collected in her travels was a chimpanzee. Wild animals generally don't make good pets. Just take a look at this Connecticut case. (Warning: Not for the faint of heart!) Aunt Wendy is certainly a questionable choice for a guardian.

A court may look at this and see three young girls, and a choice between, the grandmother, the aunt, and two guys with no blood relation as guardians. It's not a stretch to see this going opposite what to Danny Tanner's wishes actually are. This is why a will is so important for parents with young children. You want your wishes to be known, and once you are gone, it is too late.

Who is the person that you want to leave your kids to? Do you think the court would know? Does that person even know? What other directives do you want to leave regarding how your children should be raised? Have you considered an alternate? Am I ever going to stop asking these questions?

There are plenty of options for end of life planning. The thing is, that we don't know when the end of life is going to hit us. If you are going on a trip with your spouse, if you are making significant life changes, if you are up at night pondering the "what-if's," a conversation with your loved ones, and an attorney, is a great start towards peace of mind.

Stay Safe on Super Bowl Sunday

Largely regarded as an unofficial national holiday, Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most anticipated days of the year. It is a day full of team spirit, underdog stories, and overtime heroics. Unfortunately, it is also a day the often sees an uptick in accidents and drunk driving arrests. According to ScramSystems, an alcohol monitoring company, states that have a team in the game see the most profound effects. So, as Patriots fans, we have been lucky (or spoiled) for the past 17 or so years, but we are also at a greater risk of running into trouble on the road.

If you are arrested for OUI, anything that the arresting office observes will be recorded as evidence. That is your speech, your behavior, and your appearance. Submitting to a breath test will also be admitted into evidence. If you refuse to take the breathalyzer, your license will automatically be suspended. This is because you impliedly consent to a breath test by virtue of driving on Massachusetts roads.

I urge everyone to be safe. Use a designated driver, Uber, Lyft, or a good old fashioned taxi. If you do find yourself under arrest for OUI, please consult an attorney to help you navigate this complex area of the law.

 

Disclaimer

This blog is for informational purposes only. We have not established an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information electronically until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been formed.

Check yourself

If the past few days have taught us anything about our new president, it is that changes are coming and they are coming fast. Of the 17 executive orders that Trump has issued, the recent order on immigration has had the most sweeping effects, and the most backlash. Protests are springing up all over the country. Judges are issuing stays against enforcement. Lawyers are setting up shop in airports nationwide to help weary travelers.

Though by its own terms the order only effects travelers from seven middle eastern countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Syria and Somalia), anybody that could potentially be exposed would be wise to take a good look at their status. Travelers on student visas, work visas, and even green card holders will be looked at with higher scrutiny. Knowing now how quickly policy can change, any non-citizen should take a good look at what the potential is for them to face interrogation or detention before making travel plans.

If you have questions about your status, please feel free to contact The Law Office of Patrick Conway.