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Worcester Family Law Blog

About child custody exchanges

Massachusetts parents who are facing the end of their marriage should know that child custody issues can be some the most divisive ones that can arise. While these negotiations can be especially contentious, arriving at an agreement is essential to being able to resolve a divorce.

A majority of child custody arrangements provide custody and visitation schedules that detail when, where and how an exchange will occur. The actual exchange or swapping of the children takes place every time they are transferred from the physical custody of one parent to another. Visitation orders are based on the belief that both parents have the right to spend time with their children. Disagreementsover the non-payment of child support or other issues do not negate these rights.

Prioritizing children during a divorce

The divorce process can be stressful for children and negatively affect their emotional, mental and even physical health. Massachusetts residents who are divorced or in the process of getting divorced should always make sure that their children are their first consideration when making decisions regarding divorce issues.

Although it may seem natural to harbor feelings of distrust towards an ex-spouse or soon-to-be ex-spouse, it is important that divorcing parents work to assume that the other party has the best intentions in mind when it comes to the children. The assumption of good intentions is able to produce more favorable long-term results and can keep stress at healthy levels.

After the holidays, couples think about divorce

When making New Year's resolutions, some Massachusetts residents plan for big changes. Many changes involve family law matters, as a large increase in divorce filings typically occurs after the winter holidays. The president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports a 25 to 30 percent rise every January.

Some couples might hit their breaking points when everyone is gathered together for the holidays as partners have to spend more time in close quarters while possibly pretending that everything is fine in order to not disrupt family celebrations. Though tensions can mount during the holidays, one should not be too hasty when the new year comes. Deciding to separate or divorce should be considered carefully, and people should avoid making a decision like this when angry.

How to draw on a former spouse's Social Security benefits

Some divorced people in Massachusetts might be able to draw Social Security based on their ex-spouse's benefits. This may be possible if the two were married for at least 10 years and the person who wishes to draw on their spouse's income would get less if they used their own Social Security benefits. Doing so does not reduce the benefits that the other person will receive. A person can draw up to half of their former spouse's benefits, but if they remarry, they will no longer be eligible unless that marriage ends in divorce, death or an annulment.

This could be an alternative for a person who has never worked outside the home or who only did so for a few years. People must accumulate a work history that is the equivalent of at least 10 years before they can begin to draw on Social Security benefits.

When a divorced parent moves away

Despite the best intentions of Massachusetts parents to remain in close proximity to one another for as long as their children are minors, there may be reasons one decides to move, including wanting to be nearer a new partner. However, even if the parent only moves a half hour away, this still represents a significant increase in commuting time for driving the child back and forth. If the relationship between the two parents is still contentious, the parent who has not moved might respond by simply refusing to keep driving the child.

However, when parents see this primarily as a conflict between them, they may forget the effect it can have on their child, who might get less time with the other parent. A better approach would be for the parents to work toward a compromise. A mediator may be able to help parents come to an agreement about how to handle the change.

The importance of enforcing child support payments

As the Federal Child Support Enforcement Program continues to improve, getting more money for more families within the system, the number of single-parent households involved with the program has dropped. In 2014, fewer than 50 percent of custodial parents who were eligible to have child support agreements had them in place. Many of these single parents in Massachusetts and throughout the country may have lower incomes than two-parent households, and this can have an impact on the quality of a child's life, according to reports.

When one parent receives child support, the child's life is enhanced in a number of ways. Parents who pay child support also tend to be more engaged with their children, so children whose parents are paying child support generally have a relationship with both parents.

Why millenials should have prenups

According to a nationwide survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, an increasing number of millennials are signing prenuptial agreements before they get married. In fact, 51 percent of the AAML members that were surveyed stated that there was a significant rise in the number of millennials requesting prenuptial agreements. Millennial couples in Massachusetts who are considering getting married should also consider the reasons completing a prenuptial agreement may be wise.

Prenuptial agreements are particularly advisable for individuals who have assets that they want to make sure remains separated from marital property or remain in the family if a spouse dies. The agreements are also necessary for individuals who possess their own businesses, especially startups that have the potential to grow during the length of a marriage and increase in value.

Divorce rate trending downward

For people in Massachusetts and throughout the country, the divorce rate is the lowest it has been in almost 40 years. According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, in 2015, there were 16.9 divorces per 1,000 women over 15 who were married. In 2014, it was 17.6. In 1980, at the highest point, there were nearly 23 divorces per 1,000 women.

Furthermore, marriage rates are slightly higher, so although there is not necessarily a relationship between the numbers, experts believe both might be stabilizing. However, marriage rates are still not as high as they once were. In fact, experts believe that one reason for the lower divorce rate might be that more people are choosing to live together rather than marry.

Student loan debt after a divorce

Massachusetts divorce courts follow the principle of equitable distribution. When a couple breaks up, all marital assets are divided by the court in a manner that it deems fair, although this does not necessarily mean equal.

Marital debts are split as well. In addition to credit cards and medical expenses, many couples may have taken out student loans to finance their higher education. How this debt is treated by a court will depend upon when it was incurred.

When kids require more than child support payments

Single parents in Massachusetts may rely on child support payments to provide the essentials for their kids, but sometimes child support is not enough to cover everything. Parents who are going through divorce and expect to receive child support payments are advised to consider what child support will cover and how much extra money raising a child could take.

In some states, child support laws mandate that child support cover certain expenses, such as education or medical bills. It is uncommon for laws to mandate that child support cover extracurricular activities for children, such as music lessons, sports equipment or travel. A parent who receives child support may be able to choose to spend the money as they see fit, but they can also expect to have to pay for some things out of pocket for their children.

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