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The holiday season is quickly approaching. With the holidays comes additional stress for many parents and children either facing a divorce or subject to a parenting or visitation schedule created by the courts or by agreement.

Some parents easily agree on pick-up and drop-off schedules for their children for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and the winter and spring school recesses.  If you have just begun the divorce process it is not uncommon for such holiday schedules to have been ignored. By having a discussion with the other parent or alternatively negotiating through your attorney, a fair and equitable shared holiday visitation and summer vacation schedule can be created. If the parents cannot agree, the court can make a determination.

Unless you and your child(ren)’s other parent have an extremely amicable relationship having a holiday and vacation schedule in a divorce judgment or paternity / parenting judgment may help avoid later conflict. It can be beneficial to also include all major three-day weekends, full uninterrupted blocks of a week or two for travel in the summer, parent and child birthdays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter and other religious holidays. The schedule can be in place in the event of a disagreement. Parents are free to temporarily agree to different times but are encouraged to do so in writing. If you and your co-parent are in complete agreement and wish to make permanent changes to the holiday visitation schedule the process is extremely straightforward with the assistance of competent counsel.

If you are considering divorce and are unsure how it may affect the holidays for your children, or you wish to create or modify a current holiday visitation or summer vacation schedule for your children, please call 617-431-8071 to schedule a consultation.

On December 22, 2017, Congress approved the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), that made changes to the Internal Revenue Code that will significantly affect child tax credits. Beginning this year, there are changes to the child tax credit that may materially impact the tax benefits of divorced and/or single parents who are able to claim their child(ren) on their tax returns. This may be a good time to review divorce, paternity, child custody, and child support judgements that indicate which parent may claim the children for tax purposes. With resulting changes to taxable income, it may be beneficial to renegotiate either child support or tax treatment of children. This can be accomplished with the assistance of an experienced family law attorney and your accountant.

Many judgments of divorce, paternity, child custody, child visitation, child support or related modification judgments provide for which parent gets to claim the child(ren) on their tax returns. Often if there is more than one child the deductions or credits are split equally between the parents.

Before the TCJA, the child tax credit was potentially worth up to $1,000 per child, if the parent(s) were eligible. This was a credit only and was not refundable. The TCJA doubles the tax credit for 2018 to $2,000 per child. Up to $1,400 of the credit amount is now also refundable, unlike previous years. Unfortunately, these changes may not result in a lower tax bill or higher tax refund for all eligible parents as the TCJA also eliminates the personal exemption for every taxpayer and each of their dependents (children).

If the tax advantage of being able to claim the child credit now differs materially as a result of the changes in the tax laws or the financial situations of either parent, it may be possible to negotiate a better agreement with regard to child support and child tax credits with the assistance of experienced legal representation.

If you wish to explore the modification of your current child support order or modify your judgment with regard to the parent who gets to claim the child for tax purposes, please call 617-431-8071 to schedule a consultation.

For more information please visit:

https://www.irs.gov/help/ita/is-my-child-a-qualifying-child-for-the-child-tax-credit

On December 22, 2017, Congress approved the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), that made significant changes to the Internal Revenue Code that will affect alimony or spousal support going forward. If your divorce is already final you should not be concerned. If you are contemplating divorce or currently in the middle of a divorce, and are concerned about paying alimony or spousal support, you should consider how the change in the tax code may affect your taxable income.

Under the outgoing version of I.R.C. § 215 a taxpayer was able to deduct “alimony or separate maintenance payments” from gross income. The new tax law repealed this deduction for any divorce judgment or separation agreement executed after December 31, 2018. This will not affect modifications of older judgments. The repeal of the deduction will not apply to any divorce or separation agreement executed on or before December 31, 2018, and modified after that date unless the modification expressly indicates it is subject to the new rule.

If you became divorced prior to the this change in the law, the tax deductibility of your alimony will not be affected, and you may modify the payment amount or duration. If you or your spouse file for divorce or if your divorce is filed and finalized prior to January 1, 2019, the old rule still applies. If you are divorced after January 1, 2019, alimony, spousal support or separate maintenance payments will remain taxable income for the paying party and will be a non-taxable support payment to the recipient.

Often the spouse who pays alimony or spousal support is in a higher tax bracket. The spouse that pays the support will no longer benefit from the tax deduction and will have to pay taxes on income used to make alimony or spousal support payments. The party that receives the alimony or spousal support will not have to pay taxes on these payments. This means there will be potentially less net income available to you, your former partner, or your children. This loss may evidentially be mitigated by a future Court decision or the state legislature in Boston, but no change has occurred yet.

If you are planning or in process of a divorce, based on recent changes in tax law, it is in your financial interest to determine the advantage of finalizing the divorce before or after the end of calendar year 2018. The tax treatment of alimony and spousal support payments may differ substantially for those divorced before or after the end of the year. If you wish to learn more, please call me at 617-431-8071 to schedule a consultation.

Additionally, for more information please visit:

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-18-37.pdf

The Executive Office of the Trial Court of Massachusetts located in Boston, Massachusetts, is responsible for creating child support guidelines and worksheets for calculating child support payments in paternity, divorce, and other family law cases. New guidelines will be going into effect on June 15, 2018. These amended child support guidelines do not reflect a change in the Massachusetts child support law as written. The child support guidelines continue to presume that children have a primary residence with one parent and spend approximately one-third of the time with the other parent. The amendments represent a change in the presumptive or default calculations of the amount of child support to be ordered by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts. Judges have the discretion to order more or less than these amounts based on the specific facts of the case. Otherwise, the Probate and Family Courts must order the amounts set forth in the guidelines and accompanying worksheets, unless the parties agree otherwise.

On September 15, 2017, child support guidelines were issued that created changes factoring in college aged dependent children. The 2017 child support guidelines created a small presumptive decrease for financially dependent children attending college or university who were over the age of 18 and under the age of 23. Additionally, presumptive calculations based on parenting time were removed from the child support worksheets.

Prior to these changes in 2017, the Massachusetts child support guidelines were last changed as of August 1, 2013. These guidelines included a presumptive reduction of child support based on parenting schedules that were more than one-third but less than one half of the time for the parent who is not the residential parent, or a nearly fifty-fifty or equal parenting schedule.

Effective June 15, 2018, new Massachusetts child support guidelines and worksheets will go into effect that retain the consideration of college aged-children and again consider parenting time or the parenting schedule. The worksheets will again consider parenting schedules with equal or close to equal parenting time. The worksheets also create a presumptive calculation for when there is more than one child covered by the child support order, and each parent provides a primary residence for at least one child. This covers instances where children of the same parents do not share the same parenting arrangement or schedule. Unfortunately, this update does not take into account the changes in Federal tax law resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Whenever the child support guidelines are amended, there may be a basis for reducing or increasing a child support order. One of the grounds for filings a Complaint for Modification of child support is that there is now a difference between the amount of the existing child support order and the amount that would result from application of the current child support guidelines.

If you are a party to a child support order by a Massachusetts Court and wish to discuss the potential increase or reduction of your child support payment, please call me at 617-431-8071 to schedule a consultation.

Additionally, for more information please visit:

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/child-support-guidelines#2018-guidelines,-forms,-and-information-