History of Savings May Be Considered in Determining Alimony

In the Openshaw opinion, decided March 7, 2024, the Supreme Judicial Court determined for the first time that a judge may consider a divorcing couple’s custom of making regular contributions to their savings in determining the amount of alimony needed to maintain the marital lifestyle.  In that case the parties had a long term marriage with combined post-dissolution income sufficient to allow both parties to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.

The Benefits of Discussion in a Collaborative or Mediated Divorce

The Benefits of Discussion in a Collaborative or Mediated Divorce

By Scott C. Marks, Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Professional

Often, parties to a mediated or a collaborative divorce have not, for weeks, spoken directly with each other about the issues at hand.   This is because those discussions are difficult and painful and often end in impasse.  That is where a mediator or collaborative team can be beneficial.

Discussion is at the center of mediation and collaborative process.  The parties are encouraged and empowered to communicate.  The mediator or the collaborative professionals assist them to express their concerns, hear what the other is saying and explore solutions.  Thereby, they gain a better understanding of each other’s motivations and needs, which can lead to compromise.  Because the outcome is their own, they generally find it acceptable and reasonable.  Furthermore, a successful mediation or collaborative outcome shows them that they can resolve disagreements and thereby lessen future conflict.  The parties have thereby taken responsibility for the outcome.

On the other hand, when parties become frustrated by their inability to communicate with each other in a constructive manner, nothing gets resolved and the dispute festers.  When one party finally reaches his or her limit or a crisis requires immediate attention, they default to filing a case in court.  They therefore leave it to a stranger, a judge, to decide important issues that impact their lives and the lives of their children.  What’s more, there is a good likelihood that one or both parties will be unhappy with the outcome.  Further, the adversarial nature of litigation, with its allegations and counter-allegations, throws salt into already open emotional wounds, pushing the parties further apart and leaving long-lasting scars.


The new Child Support Guidelines are here and are effective as of October 4, 2021, for all child support orders.  They recognize the hardship of child care and medical insurance costs and the overall increase in cost of living.  The Guidelines may be found at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/child-support-guidelines.

Some, but certainly not all, of the significant changes are the following:

  • The maximum level of combined parental income used to calculate the presumptive child support order was raised from $250,000 to $400,000 per year, while the Court’s discretion was left intact to order additional child support for income exceeding the $400,000 level.
  • Child care costs are to be apportioned between the parents in proportion to their income, up to a benchmark of $355 per child per week, although the Court may deviate from this formula.
  • How the payment of health, dental and vision insurance coverage effects the calculation of support was also revised.
  • The term “out of pocket” medical expenses was defined as those where the children are covered by insurance but the expense is not covered and “uninsured medical expenses” as those not covered because the children are uninsured.
  • The formula and factors for orders as to support of children between ages 18 and 23 were changed.
  • The Guidelines were clarified to reflect that the Court has discretion to, but need not, order payment of college expenses but that where it orders both, the Court must consider the impact of the combined amount of both orders.
  • Clarifying language was added as to how the different forms of Social Security payments should be treated when calculating child support.
  • Changes also differentiated between the treatment of military allotments and allowances when calculating support.
  • Changes were made to clarify how child support should be calculated when there are orders of child support and alimony where one party pays both or where one party pays alimony and the other child support – following up on a recent Appellate Court decision.
  • Child care costs that cause hardship was established as a possible grounds for deviation from the Guidelines and a presumption was established that there should be deviation where the overall order is more than 40% of the payor’s available income.

Please feel free to call to discuss these changes in more detail.

Virtual Mediation and Collaborative Process

March 31, 2020

I hope you are managing well during this trying period. Social distancing creates new stressors that impact every member of every family and household – isolation, child-care responsibilities, lay-offs, medical issues, anxiety and fear, etc. Of course, for those households and families that were already suffering from conflict and division before the arrival of Covid-19, the impacts may be aggravated.

Through tele-conferencing and video-conferencing, mediation and collaborative process are dispute resolution methods that you and your spouse/partner can use to address the conflicts that you are experiencing now, such as changes to the parenting schedule, child exchange or finances. And, if you were already contemplating or in the midst of divorce, though video and tele-conferencing, mediation and collaborative process can be used now to begin or continue settlement negotiations while the courts are essentially and temporarily closed (except as to emergency and agreed-upon matters).

If you would like more information about these virtual options, please call or send me an email. I am checking the phone messages and emails daily.

Stay healthy.



new alimony calculations based on length of marriage

The Durational Limits of General Term Alimony

In 2011, the Alimony Reform Act was passed to put an end to indefinite awards of alimony. Under the Act, the duration of alimony awards is generally limited to a period of months measured as a percentage of the number of years of the marriage.

So, the updated calculations are:

For a Marriage of 5 years or less:
50% of the number of months of the marriage

Marriages over 5 years and up to 10 years:
60% of the number of months of the marriage Read More

child support college tuition guidelines MA

Child Support and College Tuition

As you may be aware of, Massachusetts child support laws do not remove the onus of paying child support once a child reaches the age of 18. And, if a child is planning to attend college, the cost of tuition also becomes a factor involving both parents. Many questions swirl around this common household situation such as “Does paying tuition change the amount of support paid?”, “Are both parents expected to kick in equally?” and so on. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions on this sometimes sticky issue:

Read More