Sunday, June 23, 2013

Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Revised Again

The Massachusetts Trial Court has just announced the new Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines to be in effect for the next four years, beginning August 1 of this year.  Federal IV-D regulations require each state to have uniform child support guidelines that are presumptively correct, and 45 C.F.R. § 302.56 specifically requires each state to review its guidelines at least once every four years.  The new Massachusetts guidelines effective August 1, 2013, are here (prose) and a corresponding worksheet may be found here. The current (still in effect) guidelines worksheet remains at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue's website and should be replaced with the newly revised worksheet when the new guidelines go into effect on August 1.

Following is a summary of the key revisions, as provided in the trial court's press release:

Summary of Key Changes to the Existing Guidelines
The 2012 Child Support Guidelines Task Force recommended a number of clarifications and changes.  Some are minor, while others represent new or modified provisions.  The most significant include:
  • Income from means tested benefits such as SSI, TAFDC, and SNAP are excluded for both parties from the calculation of their support obligations.
  • Availability of employment at the attributed income level must be considered in attribution of income cases.
  • The text makes clear that all, some, or none of income from secondary jobs or overtime may be considered by the court, regardless of whether this is new income or was historically earned prior to dissolution of the relationship.
  • Reference is made to the 2011 Alimony Reform Act; the text does not, however, provide a specific formula or approach for calculating alimony and child support in cases where both may be appropriate.
  • Clarification is given as to how child support should be allocated between the parents where their combined income exceeds $250,000.
  • A new formula is provided for calculating support where parenting time and expenditures are less than equal (50/50) but more than the assumed standard split of two thirds/one third.
  • Guidance and clarification is given in the area of child support over the age of eighteen where appropriate.  While the Guidelines apply, the court may consider a child’s living arrangements and post- secondary education. Contribution to post-secondary education may be ordered after consideration of several factors set forth in the Guidelines and such contribution must be considered in setting the weekly support order, if any.
  • The standard for modification is clarified to reflect the recent Supreme Judicial Court decision in Morales v. Morales, 464 Mass. 507 (2013).
  • Circumstances justifying a deviation are expanded to include extraordinary health insurance expenses, child care costs that are disproportionate to income or when a parent is providing less than one-third parenting time.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best US Supreme Court Decision of 2012

In my view, the best U.S. Supreme Court decision of 2012 would probably be Miller v. Alabama.  This decision scored a big one for human rights of juveniles. There will be no more mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders.  This was a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court back in June of 2012.  The majority opinion was penned by former Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan.  Of course, international human rights law was not the basis for the decision, but rather the US Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.  

I have previously blogged about the issue of locking up our children and throwing away the key - see here and here.
A divided US Supreme Court struck down mandatory life-without-parole sentences Monday for juveniles convicted of murder, ruling the widespread practice violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 
The ruling will nullify Massachusetts law, legal specialists said, and throw into question the sentences of 61 prisoners who over the past four decades were ordered to spend the rest of their lives in jail. Nationally, about 2,500 prisoners are serving life sentences without parole for murders they committed before turning 18. 
In a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that juvenile offenders younger than 18 have “diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform” and that judges should be able to consider the “mitigating qualities of youth” in sentencing, even when juveniles commit heinous crimes.
“Such mandatory penalties, by their nature, preclude a sentencer from taking account of an offender’s age and the wealth of characteristics and circumstances attendant to it,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion. “Under these schemes, every juvenile will receive the same sentence as every other — the 17-year-old and the 14-year-old, the shooter and the accomplice, the child from a stable household and the child from a chaotic and abusive one.”
It so far appears that Massachusetts has not moved quickly during the past half year since that SCOTUS decision to make the necessary corrections.   Let's hope our state will finally do so soon in 2013, and we'll thus complete one small but important step in furtherance of human rights rights here in our state.  

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Best Divorce Blog Posts of 2012

Scott Morgan, principal of the Morgan Law Firm (Houston and Austin, Texas) and fellow family law blogger, has put me on his list of the Best Divorce Blog Posts of 2012.  Check out that link for some good reading. I made it to the list on account of my blogging about gay marriage issues.  Thanks for the props, Scott!