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Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines News - Minor Update in July 2023

On July 20, 2023, the Massachusetts Trial Court announced a change to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, that became effective on July 31, 2023.  Typically the guidelines are only revisited every four years (with the next update due in 2025), but in some instances interim updates are necessary.   In this case, the change was necessary to bring the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines in conformity with federal standards.  Specifically, the child support guidelines have been updated to “[p]rovide that incarceration may not be treated as voluntary unemployment in establishing or modifying child support orders.” 45 C.F.R. § 302.56 (c) (3). These amendments appear in the Preamble and in Section 1. E. 1, which now reads: E.  Attribution of Income 1.  Income may be attributed where a finding has been made that either parent is capable of working and is unemployed or underemployed. Incarceration may not be treated as voluntary unemployment in establishing or modifying child support
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An Abundantly Awesome Announcement about Jennifer Hawthorne

Alliteration aside, we have a lot of exciting news to share about Jennifer Hawthorne 's role at Skylark Law & Mediation, PC and her contributions to the field of dispute resolution.   Since August 2016, Jen has been working with Skylark as a mediator and collaborative divorce professional.  Her role grew from an of counsel position to full time associate, and in 2022 Jen became a partner at Skylark.  Jen's skills as a mediator and her ability to lighten even the toughest conversations have elevated the work at Skylark.  Her laugh and the laughter of her clients still carries throughout the office when she has in person meetings. For the last year Jen has been overseeing Skylark's student interns from New England law, providing opportunities for future attorneys to truly understand what it means to be a well-rounded dispute resolution professional.  She intends to continue this mentorship and find ways in the future to expand on the opportunities available for potential

Test Negative & Stay Positive! Checking in on the Influence a Global Pandemic has on Divorce Mediation and the Mediators Themselves

Photo by Maxime on Unsplash Almost two years has passed since we wrote our first blog post about the havoc COVID-19 was causing in parenting plans ( Co-Parenting in a Crisis: COVID-19 and Beyond ).  Little did we know how long this crisis would persist and all the things that it would change.  We continue to contemplate how long we'll wear masks in public and whether we'll ever shake hands regularly again, and yet life goes on.  People get married and divorced, and they still need help figuring out how to navigate family conflict.   As we continue to help people with these major life decisions, we've noticed some of the potentially long-lasting effects of the pandemic.  Below is a list of what we've seen change about our practice, and we're interested to see the comments and if your experience has been similar or different: Video Killed the In-Person Star I spent my childhood (and 20s and 30s) wondering when we would regularly use video screens to communicate like

Probate and Family Court Standing Order 1-2022: Virtual Proceedings Highly Recommended amid escalating COVID-19 spread

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court has released Standing Order 1-2022 , temporarily overriding Standing Order 1-2021, regarding Court Operations Under the Exigent Circumstances Created by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Order, effective 01/05/2022, requires that all cases be held remotely if the case can be changed from in-person to virtual without having to reschedule. The form to request an in-person hearing be changed to remote can be found here: Note: If all parties and attorneys do not agree to appear remotely, a Motion (CJD 400) form may need to be filed. According to the order, rescheduling of cases is discouraged and should only happen as a last resort. While the change to virtual proceedings is highly recommended, scheduled in-person hearings shall continue where staffing levels are adequate. In alignment with the shift to virtual proceeding

New Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines (2021): Big Changes, Little Changes, Typos & some Unexpected Results

UPDATE: The court has released a web calculating version of the 2021 MA Child Support Guidelines Worksheet .  It resolves some of the typos referred to below, but the unexpected calculations still apply. Every four years, per federal mandate, the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court revisits the Child Support Guidelines through the work of a Task Force appointed by the Chief Justice.  The 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines were recently posted.  They take effect on October 4, 2021.    If you are interested in a training on all of these changes to the new Child Support Guidelines: DMTA Presents the 2021 MA Child Support Guidelines Update  – Attend this event to learn the key updates you need to know for your mediation clients. Presented by Justin Kelsey of  Divorce Mediation Training Associates  and  Skylark Law & Mediation, PC . For a full comparison of all the  tracked changes between the 2018 and 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines you can download a pdf sho

Imagine there's no Court, It isn't Hard to do

In the last year there have been times due to the COVID-19 pandemic when the court was closed or significantly delayed.  Even now, more than a year after the lockdowns started, we are experiencing long delays in obtaining court dates.   @thatmediator Imagine there’s no weapons, how would we find peace? ##mediation ##mediatorsoftiktok ♬ Imagine (Originally Performed by John Lennon) - Piano Karaoke Version - Sing2Piano Fortunately, we have an answer for what to do if there is no court. You're not simply on your own, and in fact there are lots of ways to resolve conflict outside of court. Learn more about your options from these previous posts: Divorce Options - an Update for 2020 Replace your cancelled Court Hearing with a Mediation A Template for Avoiding Court You're Thinking about Conflict All Wrong: Is there a better way to think about conflict;  a model which can free us from our fear of conflict? How does a Divorce end? 😡, ☹️, or 🙂

The Most Important Thing when Dividing Retirement in Divorce (& 4 Traps if You're not Informed)

In many divorce cases retirement accounts are the biggest, or at least one of the biggest, assets.  Because of that, it is imperative to understand the options for transferring and dividing retirement assets in a way that maximizes the benefits and minimizes taxes.  Informed Consent is the Most Important Thing when Dividing Retirement in Divorce You don't want to make significant financial decisions about your future without understanding the financial consequences.  Retirement accounts are complicated, vary greatly in their requirements & plan details, and can result in significant tax liability.  If you don't feel fully informed when agreeing to how a retirement account or multiple accounts are being divided, then you are taking a financial risk that most likely cannot be undone once your divorce is final.  To avoid making uninformed or bad decisions, consult with retirement division and financial experts for information and advice before making these decisions (see below