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Worcester Family Law Blog

Considering taxes after divorce

Massachusetts spouses involved or interested in divorce may benefit from considering the different ways their taxes might be affected after the marriage is officially dissolved. Once parents are no longer married, there are several potential concerns that might need to be addressed before filing federal taxes.

Any parent unmarried before the last day of 2014, earning at least 50 percent of the household's income and living with their children for six months of the year, may be considered to be the head of the household. Filing under that designation may provide taxpayers with higher deductions and lower tax rates. Unmarried parents who earn less than $75,000 in adjusted gross income might be permitted to deduct $1,000 from taxes owed for each child who was under the age of 16 by the end of 2014.

A more modern version of visitation

When Massachusetts parents are going through a divorce, one of the more difficult aspects that they will be confronted with is the issue of child custody and visitation. This is especially the case when the non-custodial parent will be living a great distance away from the child after the divorce has been completed. An emerging method that has been allowed by courts in several states is virtual visitation through methods such as email, Skype, video conferencing and social networks such as Facebook.

Courts who incorporate this method as part of a custody and visitation order typically require custodial parents to allow these visits, make them reasonably available and permit uncensored communication. These visits are meant to supplement, not replace, traditional visits, and if a parent is not allowed traditional visitations rights by the court for whatever reason, it is unlikely that virtual visitation will be granted.

How is paternity testing conducted?

Some residents of Massachusetts may wish to learn more about how paternity testing is conducted in the state. Cases in which the paternity of a child is disputed may be resolved through genetic testing to determine parentage.

In order to obtain paternity testing, it is sufficient to provide an affidavit by a party stipulating that both the mother and the putative father engaged in intercourse during the period where conception is thought to have occurred. If the results of such testing indicates with a probability of 97 percent or greater that the potential father is indeed the biological father, the court will issue a temporary child support order. In cases where paternity is disputed, the court may decide to order additional testing from either the same laboratory or a different one.

When do alimony payments end after a divorce?

Alimony is one of the more important issues for couples going through a divorce. When a person is making monthly payments to their former spouse in order to support them economically, this is known under Massachusetts law as general term alimony. This is ongoing, as opposed to rehabilitative alimony, which is usually for a shorter period after which the recipient is expected to be able to generate their own income.

Massachusetts family law statutes give certain duration caps for general term alimony, depending on the length of the former marriage. If the former couple was married for over two decades, a court may order that the alimony payments continue indefinitely. For shorter marriages, different duration rules apply, with progressively shorter marriage lengths resulting in shorter alimony durations. These statutory limits give judges some discretion for how long to order alimony, provided they are under that limit.

Will I receive child support if the other parent is in jail?

Even if a parent is in jail, he or she can still be ordered by a Massachusetts court to pay child support. The process works differently depending on whether there was an existing court order for support at the time the person went to jail.

If child support has not yet been ordered, a court can order that it be paid even if the parent is in jail. However the court is not mandated to follow the child support guidelines if the paying parent is in jail and will likely remain incarcerated for at least three more years.

What steps do I take to get a divorce in Massachusetts?

Spouses who would like to get a divorce may be unsure about what the basic legal steps are. To begin, both parties must be legal residents of Massachusetts in order to get a divorce there. As long as that requirement is met, a spouse may file a petition for divorce citing fault or no-fault grounds.

When an individual files the divorce papers, copies of those papers must be mailed to or otherwise served on their spouse. If the recipient wishes to object to any of the information in the divorce papers, they will have an opportunity to contest the divorce by filing their own papers. If the recipient has no objections to the information, they will simply sign the paperwork and mail it back.

The scope of expenses that child support can cover

Massachusetts parents may be interested in some information about the scope of child support and what expenses it covers. The rules for child support that courts follow often go beyond a child's basic needs.

States have specific guidelines that help courts determine the amount of money that should be paid for child support by a non-custodial parent. In coming to this decision, courts will usually look at the income of both of the child's parents and the financial needs of the child, among other factors. The courts do not generally monitor how this money is spent, since they rely on the assumption that the custodial parent is providing for the basic living expenses of the child. In cases where the child's needs are not being met, the government may step in.

The decline of the divorce rate in the United States

While most individuals in Massachusetts and across the country might be under the impression that the divorce rate is around 50 percent, studies may have proven otherwise; the article suggests that an estimated two-thirds of marriages are expected to be successful. The highest divorce rates occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but couples who tied the knot in the 2000s are divorcing at lower rates.

Perhaps the decline in the number of divorces is due to a variety of factors; for example, people are now marrying a lot later in life, resulting in relationships that are more mature. In the 1950s the median age for men to marry was age 23 and women at age 20; in 2004, the median rose to 27 for men and 26 for women.

Challenging paternity in Massachusetts

Many Massachusetts parents are ecstatic when the time comes to welcome a child into the world. However, there are cases where it may not be known who the father of the child is. If a man was assumed to be the father but evidence suggests that this is not the case, either party can challenge paternity.

When a child is born, the mother's husband is usually assumed to be the father. If the mother is not married, the man she believed fathered the child may be assumed to be the child's parent. However, even after paternity has been established, there are many reasons that a man or the child's mother may wish to challenge paternity. For example, the person assumed to be the father may be found to be sterile or infertile, or the lab results establishing paternity may have been tainted or tampered with. Furthermore, either party may have reason to believe the child was fathered by someone else.

Giving notice when leaving the state

When a parent has custody of a child in Massachusetts, there are some restrictions as to relocating. This is not as much of a factor if the parents already live in two different parts of the state or country. However, if the custodial parent wants to leave the area, then there could be some challenges for the non-custodial parent.

Unless there is an agreement between the parents, the non-custodial parent can bring a dispute to the court about the relocation. This could prevent the other parent from leaving the area until the case is heard in front of a judge. The judge will make a decision about whether the parent can leave with the child. If the parent is granted permission, then there will be a new agreement drawn for visitation with the non-custodial parent. Some judges will not allow the parent to leave the state if it is not in the best interest of the child.

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Robert A. Antonioni, Esq.
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Leominster, MA 01453
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