Alimony and child support serve two very different purposes

Massachusetts residents may have heard that money is fungible. What this means is that money is interchangeable: any one dollar bill may be substituted for any other one dollar bill and the value and use of each is the same. In essence, money is money and when funds for different purposes are lumped together it does not really matter which individual dollars go to each outstanding financial obligation.

However, divorce-based support payments are not fungible. Although spousal support and child support may be financial obligations paid from one former spouse to another, they may not be mixed together for a common purpose. It is important to recognize that although a single party may pay alimony and child support, those two payments serve two distinct purposes. One is to providesupport to a former spouse. The other is to provide support to one’s noncustodial children.

Spousal support is intended to help a person get back on his or her feet after ending a marriage. The support may be used by the individual to learn a new occupational skill or to complete a degree in order to re-enter the workforce. Spousal support or alimony is for a former spouse to use for his or her needs and should help that individual become financially independent.

Child support, however, serves a very different end. Child support is intended to be used by custodial parents to help their kids lead normal, productive lives. Child support is paid by a noncustodial parent for the benefit of his or her children and may not be used by a custodial parent for personal uses. Child support is for children; spousal support is for adults.

If a noncustodial parent pays his ex-spouse $500 per month in child support and $500 per month in spousal support, then the custodial spouse must use $500 for each of the given purposes. She may not use $600 for herself and $400 for her kids; support payments may not be mixed and reallocated. Once they are paid out, support payments may not be used interchangeably and must be allocated as designated by an agreement or court order.

Can I get sole child custody if my ex is abusive?

Disagreements between married individuals can lead to divorces. In Massachusetts, a couple can seek to end its marriage and in the process may negotiate or have a court settle all matters related to alimony, property, child support and child custody. When it comes to splitting children’s time between the homes of their parents, courts look to serve the best interests of the children subject to their determinations. Serving those best interests can involve taking into account a parent’s history of violence or other detrimental proclivities.

When one parent is unfit to have control of his or her children, courts can award sole custody to the other parent. Sole custody gives the custodial parent full control over the legal decision-making power for the children and permits the children to live exclusively with that parent. A noncustodial parent may have visitation rights awarded by the court, but that visitation can be subject to the limitations of the court and may require supervision for any times the noncustodial parent is with the children.

A parent may be deemed unfit for child custody for a variety of reasons. Prior charges of or convictions for child abuse can prevent a parent from securing custody of his children. Allegations or convictions of domestic violence against another family member can also keep a parent from having custodial time with his kids. Drug addiction and other dangerous lifestyle choices can prevent a parent from having custody rights over his children.

Courts want to preserve parent-child relationships but also must keep children safe. For this reason, some parents are awarded sole custody of their kids when the other parents are unfit to have control over their children. To learn more about child custody matters in Massachusetts or to have a specific custody matter addressed, please consult with a family law attorney.

Mediation can result in binding orders for family law matters

When a Massachusetts judge decides how a family law matter should be resolved, that judicial officer will create an order that stipulates just how the parties must act with regard to the custody, support or divorce matter under consideration. A judicially created order is binding on the parties. This means that the parties are required to act in accordance with the terms of the order or they may face real penalties like claims of contempt of court.

The Massachusetts courts allow parties to use mediation to resolve their family law differences. As previously discussed on this blog, a mediation session brings opposing parties together before a neutral, unbiased mediator. That mediator does not represent either of the parties and does not advocate for a particular resolution to their family law dispute.

During the mediation session the parties can talk through issues to try to resolve their own problem in a hands-on manner. They are not subject to the mandates of a judge and can resolve their disputes on their own terms. If they are able to come up with a way to fix their problems in mediation, the terms of the decision are embodied in a settlement agreement.

In many situations the agreement that the parties make in mediation is considered a legal contract. Contracts bind people to their terms and often include enforcement and penalty clauses that explain what can happen if a party fails to abide by the agreement’s terms. In some situations a family court judge may adopt a settlement agreement as an enforceable order and give the order the judicial weight of a judge-made order.

Mediation gives people the power to settle their own differences. The agreements they make in mediation can be enforceable just as orders made by judges are enforceable. Both mediation and courtroom hearings can be appropriate ways to handle family law disputes.

Are you prepared for when your alimony payments end?

Alimony or spousal support is a legal obligation between former spouses. It provides one individual with financial support for a designated period of time at the expense and obligation of the other. Spousal support is based on the circumstances of each divorcing couple; in Massachusetts, several forms of alimony are available to meet those couples’ varying needs.

However, in most cases, a person’s alimony payments will eventually end. Alimony is often meant to be rehabilitative, or designed to help a spouse who has been out of the workforce to prepare to find a job in the wake of a divorce. As a result, the payments will not continue forever, and spouses receiving alimony must be prepared to support themselves when those payments cease.

Knowing when one’s alimony payments will end is a good first step to preparing for their absence. It is important for people who are receiving alimony to know that they, as well as their former spouses, can also ask their divorce courts for modifications to their spousal support or alimony awards. A modification can extend or shorten the length of time that alimony is paid and can be based on factors such as the length of the former couple’s marriage.

The Walters Law Offices can help people with the legal aspects of preparing to meet their alimony obligations as well as to preparing for the dates on which their alimony or spousal support payments will end. The firm is equipped to advise individuals going through divorces in Massachusetts of alimony laws relevant to their cases as well as to discuss options such as modifications that may be necessary for individuals to meet their continuing needs. To learn more about this Massachusetts-based family law practice, please visit its website on alimony.

Parental relocation is a difficult child custody issue

A great job opportunity for a Massachusetts resident can mean that the individual will uproot his family and move everyone to a new community or even to a new state. When a person facing such a situation is married, he and his spouse can decide if the move will serve the family’s best interests. When the person is divorced and has children, his decision to move and to try to take his kids with him is significantly more challenging.

Under Massachusetts law, a divorced parent generally may not take his child out of state without the consent of the other parent. Courts can provide orders for the permissible removal of children from the state by their divorced parents, but at its most superficial level consent of the parents is required for such an action to occur. This rule applies regardless of whether the parents have joint physical custody of the child or whether one parent has sole physical custody and the other has visitation rights.

However, if a parent has no rights to a child then that individual may not be able to stop the relocation of the child and his parent. Parents can lose their rights to their kids, choose to give up their rights, or can fail to acknowledge their children through refusals to complete paternity tests. If parental rights were never established or were abolished after the fact, then that unrecognized parent has no standing to prevent relocation.

Courts look at what child custody arrangements will serve the best interests of the child when they make custody and visitation schedules. Parental relocation throws a big twist into those carefully crafted schedules and parenting plans. For this reason, parents generally may not unilaterally move their kids out of Massachusetts without the consent of the kids’ other parents. Please be aware that this information is general in nature, and a Massachusetts family law attorney can provide advice tailored to a specific situation.

What if my ex and I disagree about child support?

Massachusetts parents may not always agree about what their shared children really need. One parent may believe that as long as a child has food in his stomach and a roof over his head that his needs are effectively met. The other parent may believe that extravagances are necessary for the child to lead a happy, functional life. From a legal standpoint, what a child legally needs from a child support perspective usually falls somewhere in between these two extremes.

A noncustodial parent’s child support obligation may require a sum sufficient to cover a variety of expenses. Child support may be used to pay for school fees, books and costs associated with participation in extracurricular activities. It may extend to doctors’ bills, hospitalization costs and other fees linked to the care of the child. Child support can also be used for the child’s entertainment and engagement in leisure activities.

When two parents strongly disagree about what child support should and should not be used for, a family court may intervene and help the parties find a resolution to their differences. Family courts work to protect the best interests of the kids who pass through their doors and can settle disagreements between former spouses who cannot manage matters about their kids. While child support does take into account the financial needs and limits of the paying parent, it is utilized to see to it that kids have what they need to thrive.

This blog post only covers a fraction of the discussion one could engage in on the topic of financial matters related to raising child. To handle specific child support questions that readers might have, consultation with family law attorneys can be a good first step. Lawyers who work in the family law field can provide guidance on child support and other topics of interest to their clients.

Money is often an issue that leads couples to divorce

Financial instability can be incredibly stressful on a family. All across Massachusetts there are individuals struggling to keep their heads above the threatening waters of insolvency, foreclosure and even bankruptcy. Some couples are able to weather financial challenges together and emerge stronger than before they faced their money problems. Others find that economic hardships exacerbate their problems and push them closer toward divorce.

Interestingly enough, the reverse financial situation can also lead some to pursue the ends of their marriages. In some cases, couples may wait until later in their marriages to start divorce proceedings because it gives them time to get their financial affairs in order. With no kids in their households to care for and sufficient savings and investments to provide for them into their later lives, divorce is sometimes pursued by those who have attained solid financial stability.

Also known as gray divorce, later-in-life divorces are on the rise. Married people can find themselves facing the final decades of their lives and recognizing that they did not accomplish all of the goals they had set out for themselves. They may perceive their spouses and the future care that they may have to provide to those spouses as hurdles to overcome in attaining happiness toward the ends of their lives.

Having enough money in one’s personal coffers can provide the incentive a person needs to finally end a marriage. Conversely, battling with a spouse about financial struggles can also lead individuals to consider divorce. Money plays a big role in the end of a marriage and how a couple structures its wealth can influence matters such as property division settlements and alimony. Attorneys who practice family law can provide their clients with information on preparing for divorce, regardless of the financial circumstances of those they represent.

Source:, “Financial security pushes couples to divorce court,” Erin E. Arvedlund, Aug. 9, 2015

Can a husband receive alimony from his ex-wife?

Previously this Massachusetts family law blog discussed some of the historical bases on which alimony and spousal support laws rest. In sum, women were generally more financially burdened than their husbands after divorce due to the fact they traditionally did not hold down paying jobs outside of their homes. Alimony or spousal support was used to allow women to establish their own lives after divorce with the financial support of their former partners.

Now, however, it is not uncommon for husbands to perform the majority of work within their homes while their wives serve as the primary breadwinners for their families. Due to this shift in the delegation of work between husbands and wives, both men and women can receive alimony. Alimony can be paid from the payer spouse to the other for a period of time that is established by a Massachusetts family law court.

Regardless of whether a man or a woman is seeking to receive alimony from a soon-to-be ex-spouse, there are a number of factors that a court will examine. The court will evaluate how long the couple was married and what standard of living they experienced during that union. Among other considerations, the court will look at the capacity of the requesting spouse to earn an income on his or her own and will also evaluate how long the alimony should last in order for the requesting spouse to be prepared to function without it.

Traditionally, women received alimony because they spent most of their working years in their homes managing the responsibilities of their families. Today, both men and women serve that important function in their families. Because of this shift, husbands and wives are eligible to pursue financial support in the form of alimony from their former spouses.

Our law firm can help you mediate your divorce

The Walters Law Offices include in their practice the mediation of Massachusetts divorces. As prior posts on this family law blog have discussed, mediation is an alternative to a traditional court-based divorce. Individuals who wish to talk through the issues related to the ends of their marriages outside of the courtroom may benefit from working in the mediation process.

Mediation can address many topics that fall under the general heading of divorce. For example, child custody matters may be negotiated between the parties to a divorce in a mediated setting. Additionally, the financial aspects of a divorce, such as property division matters, child custody, and alimony, may be discussed during a divorce-related mediation.

Mediation is not always the best option for every Massachusetts couple that finds its marriage ending in divorce. Interpersonal issues that prevent the individual partners to a marriage from speaking openly and honestly about their divorce plans may inhibit the mediation process. However, any couple that desires to begin its divorce in mediation may, if necessary, move its divorce to a more traditional setting in the family courts.

The attorneys of the Walters Law Offices have represented clients who have pursued mediated as well as traditional divorces. They recognize that not all couples may initially be interested in mediating the ends of their marriages. However, parties who would like to learn more about what it truly means to mediate a divorce may always contact the firm for more information about this aspect of its practice. Understanding mediation as an ends to a marriage gives some parties options for controlling the way that they separate their lives from those of their soon to be ex-spouses.

Child custody matters follow rules of jurisdiction

When an American citizen desires to uproot his life in this country and take it to another, he has some legal work to address. Most countries will allow Massachusetts residents and other Americans to visit with passports, but when they intend to move and settle in new locations they usually need more permanent travel documents. A visa can be just the type of document a person needs to start his life abroad.

Just as visas can be granted they can also be taken away. If a person has his visa revoked he may not remain in the foreign country nor may he visit it until the visa issue is resolved. The matter of a visa is currently causing a great deal of consternation for an American actress and her foreign ex-husband as they battle over their two children’s custody.

Kelly Rutherford recently told an American court that she has traveled around 70 times to Monaco to see her two young kids. The children have lived abroad with their father who cannot travel to the United States. His visa was revoked and for that reason he cannot live where Rutherford works and resides. In order to preserve her parenting time, Rutherford has become a frequent traveler to maintain a relationship with her kids.

At present, Rutherford and her ex are trying to determine what court should have jurisdiction over their messy international custody matter. Her ex wants the battle moved to Monaco and alleges that California should not have jurisdiction as Rutherford no longer lives there; Rutherford desires to keep the matter California despite the fact that she retains a residence in New York.

Where a parent lives can impact where a child custody matter may be handled. If the California court finds that Rutherford is no longer a resident of the state then the actress may find herself facing even more travel. At the heart of this matter are two small children who deserve to have their best interests served by whatever court system ends up managing their case.

Source:, “Actress Kelly Rutherford’s Custody Battle Focuses On Court Jurisdiction,” Miriam Hernandez, July 10, 2015

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