Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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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.

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Springfield MA Family Law Blog

The IEP: a possible subject in a child's custody order

A child with special needs can come in many different shapes and sizes and can have a number of different issues. The vast majority of the time, these kids are able to attend school but may need a little extra help to get a good education.

This is where an Individualized Education Program comes in to play. While there a lot of federal laws surrounding an IEP, the basic idea is that the law requires educational institutions to supply education on a basis tailored to the needs of the student. The goal is to prevent a child suffering with a disability or other special need from slipping through the cracks of what might otherwise be a one-size-fits-all education system.

What can I do when my special needs child turns 18?

As is the case in most states, a child in Massachusetts will reach an age at which, legally, they have both the right and responsibility to handle their own affairs. In this state, a child who is over 18 is an adult and presumably has the ability to take care of themselves. For some, though, help may still be needed to ensure that adult is safe both physically and financially.

A problem arises with respect to special needs children who may still require someone to manage their property and take care of their personal affairs, such as making sure they have appropriate medical care and the like. Sometimes, these legal matters can be handled through the divorce court or a paternity order. In other cases, however, a loved one who is overseeing someone on the cusp of legal adulthood will need to file a request for guardianship over an incapacitated person. An incapacitated person is someone who is a legal adult but cannot reasonably be expected to handle their own affairs.

Don't get blindsided by tax problems after a divorce

For those who are not prepared during a divorce or other breakup, experiencing tax fallout can feel like getting the wind taken out of them. In other words, they may be blindsided, that is, totally unprepared to account for thousands of dollars in additional tax liabilities or lost tax savings.

Tax surprises can also happen in the world of alimony, child support, and child custody, such as in the case of who gets to claim the valuable dependency exemptions and child tax credits. When dividing up marital property, however, taxes can create some particularly nasty surprises.

What is shared custody in Massachusetts?

Residents of Massachusetts may refer to having shared custody with their child's other parent rather loosely. The term shared custody actually has a technical meaning in Massachusetts law and can even refer to more than one concept.

A couple that is truly sharing custody in all respects will have an arrangement in which both parents spend a lot of time with their children on an ongoing basis and do so frequently and regularly. One should notice, however, that the law does not command that parents share time with each other on a perfect 50-50 basis, even if they have shared physical custody.

Once I have guardianship of a minor, what must I do?

As this blog has discussed on previous occasions, grandparents and other concerned relatives may be able to help a child by taking custody of them through guardianship. Hopefully, with the proper legal help, this process can go relatively smoothly, particularly if the child's biological parents are on board with the process.

Family members who serve as guardians over their minor loved ones in Massachusetts have ongoing responsibilities both to the children they are caring for and to the court that is overseeing the guardianship. With respect to the children themselves, it may seem obvious, but, as the legal and physical custodian of the child, the guardian must make sure that the child is properly cared for and has their needs met. The guardian is also responsible for ensuring that the child receives the necessary medical treatment, along with a proper education.

Representing high earners in child support disputes

As a previous post discussed, many people who live fairly ordinary lives may earn over $250,000 a year between the parents. The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines do not account fully for those over this amount. If this is the case, it is often prudent for a parent to retain the services of an experienced attorney. Support will be, to some extent, determined by the facts and circumstances of each parent, and these will have to be effectively presented to the judge who is hearing the child support case.

Our office is here to help a parent accomplish their goals. From both professional and personal experience, we realize how important it is to make sure that a child support order is established in a fair and accurate manner.

Child support orders for high income individuals

While it can be thought of as a blessing that many people in Springfield, Massachusetts, earn a lot of money, high income earners have some special issues with which they have to deal when they are trying to establish a child support order.

This is because the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines only contemplate parents' income up to $250,000 a year combined. Within these limits, someone can apply the Guidelines to get a basic idea of how much the parents will pay toward a support obligation and what the responsibility of each parent is with respect to this obligation.

Other financial issues associated with divorce

A previous post on this blog talked about the possible tax consequences of a divorce. While it is very important for a couple to consider all the tax implications of a divorce, there are other important financial issues and implications a person needs to think about as well.

Many couples who are splitting have a number of debts, some in their own names and some owed jointly with one's spouse. Creditors have no obligation to respect the parties' divorce decree when collecting. From the creditor's perspective, they may pursue whomever owes the debt, even taking steps like garnishing wages. Therefore, it is very important that each spouse makes sure that the debts are divided fairly, so that both sides are protected if the other spouse does not pay off the creditor as agreed.

Tax consequences of divorce are multifaceted

Many people who go through a divorce will tell you they were surprised that, despite all the intense emotions that come with the end of a marriage, the process of dissolving the marriage is largely about money. And the monetary aspects carry over during tax time. There are a lot of ways federal and Massachusetts tax laws may play in to the outcome of a person's divorce. Alimony remains tax deductible to the person paying it, at least for the time being. Another issue is which parent will get to claim the exemptions that go along with having a dependent child, as these can be worth thousands of dollars in tax savings.

The property division process also comes with the potential for tax consequences. For instance, special steps need to be taken when one spouse is going to collect from another spouse's retirement fund. This often will involve the preparation and issuance of a special court order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order.

Options other than full-blown guardianship

As this blog has discussed, guardianship of a minor is an option that relatives of minor children can use when someone needs to step in and take care of those children. This scenario arises often in situations where a parent, due to a drug addiction, mental illness or other issue, is either unwilling or unable to care for their own children.

However, a guardianship may also be an option when a parent is deployed, physically sick or has died prematurely.

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