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Family Law Attorney

I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

Springfield MA Family Law Blog

When does child support end in Massachusetts?

It is important for readers of this Springfield family law blog to understand that child support determinations are made based on the specific needs of children. As such, the factual situations of a reader's case will play a huge role in the outcome of their support matter. This post only provides a general overview of Massachusetts law and how it relates to the termination of child support.

In some cases child support may end when a child attains 18 years of age. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. If the child is still principally dependent on their parents the support may continue. If a child has moved out of their parent's home, is supporting themselves with earnings, has gotten married or joined the military then they may be found to be no longer dependent on their parents.

Financial missteps can happen during divorce

A divorce is a significant form of loss. It is the loss of a relationship and the end of a stage of a person's life that, at one time, they may have thought would last forever. Massachusetts residents who have had to endure the difficult process of divorce or who have witnessed friends and family members go through it understand that as a marriage ends a whole host of questions and concerns may begin.

Questions may arise with regard to a parent's right to stay involved in their children's lives as their marriage comes to an end or regarding whether they will receive support from their spouse after their divorce has been finalized. Many questions come up concerning the division of a divorcing couple's assets and rather than investigating responsible solutions to their quandaries divorcees often make emotionally-based and sometimes poor choices over what assets they wish to retain.

Can I relocate out of state with my child?

Moving can be a big upheaval in the life of a Springfield family. Even when a family moves together with both parents supporting each other as they pick up their lives and plant new roots in an unfamiliar place, the changes that naturally happen from such an event can cause challenges for adults and children alike. When a parent plans to relocate with their child and such a move could upset the custodial arrangement they have with the child's other parent, the process can be much harder.

Generally a parent who wants to move out of state with their child must first seek the permission of the child's other parent. If the parents agree that the move serves the child's best interests and they can continue to co-parent despite the relocation then securing necessary changes to a child custody and visitation plan may be relatively straightforward. Unfortunately, though, not all noncustodial parents support the relocation of their children and will not give such permission.

Massachusetts grandparents may have rights to visitation

In the event that Massachusetts parents decide to divorce, it is likely that either on their own or with the help of the court a child custody and visitation plan will be created. When child custody orders and agreements are prepared they are drafted with the best interests of the children in mind and for this reason they can be rather subjective and can vary depending upon the needs of the children.

In some cases, though, a person who is not the parent of the affected child may receive visitation time with the youth through a court-approved agreement or order. Grandparents in Massachusetts often have rights to petition the probate and family law courts handling their grandchildren's custody matters and seek to secure time with those young people.

Child support issues go beyond receiving a child support order

The separation of unmarried parents or the divorce of married parents can create a great deal of uncertainty in the life of a Springfield child. Though many parents who choose to end their relationships take steps to protect their kids from the emotional challenges of such events there is often no way for them to completely shelter their children from the difficulties of the process.

One way that parents can help their children, though, is to ensure that the kids' transitions from having their parents together to living separately goes as smoothly as possible. Much of this can be achieved through careful planning and sound child custody agreements; child support agreements and orders can help kids continue to receive the financial support they need from both parents to ensure that they are able to thrive.

Is it important for me to fight for legal custody of my child?

Often, when parents begin to stress over child custody matters, their concerns surround where their children will live and which parent will have physical control over them. Matters related to the physical placement of a child are part of the child's physical custody plan, and in Massachusetts a parent may have sole physical custody of the child or share it with the child's other parent.

There is a second type of custody, though, that not all parents are aware of when they begin negotiating their rights to their children. Legal custody concerns a parent's ability to have decision-making power over their kids and to have their voices heard when important matters are decided regarding their kids' well-being. Some common topics of child-rearing that fall under legal custody are: education, religion, and medical care.

Child support enforcement options in Massachusetts

When a child is subject to a custody agreement or order, he or she may spend much of the time in the household of one parent. In such arrangements, that parent with whom the child primarily lives is considered the 'custodial parent' of the child, and the other parent, who may have visitation rights with the child is considered the 'noncustodial parent.' Noncustodial parents are often required to pay child support to help maintain their children's livelihoods, as they do not provide day-to-day care for them due to the custodial situation.

When noncustodial parents stay current on their support payments children generally have sufficient financial support to meet their needs. However, when noncustodial parents fall behind on their payments, their children can suffer and want for certain basic requirements. As such, the state of Massachusetts may take certain enforcement actions to ensure that children receive the monetary support they need.

Divorce may restrict rights to ex's Social Security income

When a Springfield resident works long enough in a job that qualifies for Social Security he or she may, once reaching the minimum threshold age, begin to receive financial benefits from the Social Security Administration. These payments can help people maintain their lifestyles throughout their retirements, and may help them provide for their spouses as they enter the later phases of life. In some instances, the spouses of Social Security recipients may receive benefits through the recipients' earnings. However, divorce can preclude this option if the couples were not married long enough to qualify.

Under the rules of the Social Security Administration a couple must be married for at least 10 years before one spouse may collect benefits based on the other's earnings. A divorce prior to 10 years of marriage would therefore cut off the spouses' from benefiting from each other's Social Security contributions, but special circumstances may modify this mandate.

Back to school may mean changes to child custody arrangements

Although the warmth of summer may last for a while longer, all throughout the country children are preparing to wrap up their vacations and re-enter their school classrooms. Here in Springfield, parents may be reviewing school shopping lists as their kids cling to their last few weeks of calm before the rigors of the academic year begin. For most families, back to school time means a change in the routine they experienced during the summer break. For families subject to child custody agreements and orders, back to school time may indicate the need to review or modify a child's physical custody plan.

Whether a child custody order or agreement must be modified will depend on many factors that are specific to the needs of the child subject to the controlling document. For example, if children change schools or will experience a change in routine due to academic commitments, their parents may need to adjust when they transition between households or when the noncustodial parent has visitation time with the youths.

Do I have to allege fault for a Massachusetts divorce?

Marriages end for many reasons. While some couples naturally drift apart, others make unexpected and shocking discoveries about each other that bring their relationships to quick ends. In Massachusetts, individuals have a variety of grounds on which to base their divorce fillings, which can include, but do not have to utilize, claims of fault.

There are seven fault grounds that Springfield residents can use for the purposes of pursuing divorce. These include claims such as adultery, impotency, and desertion, as well as claims of abuse, habitual intoxication, non-support and incarceration. Individuals who plan to use these fault grounds as the bases for their divorces should consider discussing their plans with their family law attorneys to ensure that they understand how their choices may play out during their court proceedings.

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Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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Springfield, MA 01103
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