Pre-Marital Business Becomes Martial Property

Generally, marital property is property acquired
by either spouse during the marriage. On the other hand, premarital property, owned by a spouse before the marriage, is considered separate property and isn’t split up during a divorce.

Sometimes the lines get blurred, especially if you don’t keep your separate property truly separate, as a South Carolina case demonstrates.

In that case, a husband formed a business before marrying his wife. Several years before they got married, the wife, who was a family friend at the time, loaned him money for the company and left college to

work for the company.
After filing for the divorce, the wife sought to share

in assets related to the business. According to the wife, she assisted her husband with the company while they were married, working without pay, and her husband held her out as an equal partner. She said she also obtained loans for the business and invested in it.

A divorce judge said this was enough to “transmute” the business to marital property. An appeals court agreed, upholding the judgment. Now, the business will be included in the marital estate and the wife will be entitled to her share.

(This article was published as part of the Legal Matters Family Law Summer 2019 newsletter)

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What is Child Support Actually For?

The purpose of Child Support is to protect children from the economic impact a divorce, which can affect their standard of living. Child Support is for basic needs that will give the child the same quality of life that the child enjoyed throughout the marriage. This covers typically necessary things such as shelter, groceries, and clothes. That being said there

Child support does not specifically include the following:

  • monies owned for a parent’s share of child’s medical expenses;
  • Percentage of tuition for private school or college
  • Extracurricular activities

While a parent may not be automatically liable for some portion of these costs, if the children were already creating or were expected to develop these sorts of expenses at the time of their parents’ split, it’s difficult to argue that a parent shouldn’t continue to be responsible for some portion of this expense if she or he can afford to help.

A divorcing parent may not be automatically liable for a share of the above cots, however; if the child already incurred these expenses and was anticipating occurring before the parent’s divorce, it’s a tough argument to say that the non-custodial parent should not continue to be responsible for these expenses.

Things like daycare, extracurriculars, medical, and college expenses are addresses as separate parts of the divorcing couple’s separation agreement. This avoids one parent’s refusal to contribute to extracurriculars by saying “this is what I pay child support for,” when that is not necessarily the case. This does not mean that the primary parent is allowed to sign up for the child(ren) for expenses extracurriculars without consulting the other parent. The court will take a “common sense” approach and look at the situation and decide what would be in the child(ren)’s best interest. This is why the language in a separation agreement, addressing these issues, is of vital importance. If the wording simply says “both parents have to agree” one parent could simply say “I don’t agree” to everything and then the issue would have to go back to court. Separation agreements are of the utmost significance as they can cause more harm than good down the line if not worded and appropriately addressed to meet the couple’s needs. That’s everyone needs to consult an attorney experienced in this field who can give their case the individualized attention to find out what needs to be addressed.

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Mandatory Parent Education Programs

Many people aren’t aware that the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court requires parents to complete a mandatory parent education class. This is required if you are divorcing and have minor children, even if the divorce is uncontested. This is extremely important as the Judge can choose not to enter a final Judgment of Divorce Nisi until both parents file their certificates that they receive after completion of the 5hour class (which is usually spread into two 2.5 hour classes over the course of a couple evenings). The class is $80.00 and divorcing parents must attend separate classes from each other. Most clients find that the class is not overwhelming as it is just designed to educate parents on how divorce affects children as well as offer tips to make co-parenting easier. You are required to attend the class within 30 days of being notified about it. We advise our clients to get it over with quickly in order to avoid any possible conflicts or sanctions for noncompliance down the line.

Below is the information for approved Parent Education Programs in Essex County:

Divorce Workshops, LLC
Divorce and Its Impact on Children’s Development
374 Broadway
Lynn, MA
Contact: Dina Guay

Divorce Workshops, LLC
Divorce and Its Impact on Children’s Development
385 Essex St
Salem, MA
Contact: Dina Guay

Parent Education and Custody Effectiveness (PEACE)
North Shore Counseling Center
900 Cummings Center, Suite 324-S
Beverly, MA
Contact: Reception Desk
Lynn Huber, LICSW
Program Director for Parent Education

Family Healthy Choices Parenting Education
Peabody Inst. Library (Danvers Town Library)
Gordon Room
15 Sylvan Street
Danvers, MA 
Contact: Jill Levine

Putting Children First
Family Service of Merrimack Valley
Merrimack College (McQuade Library)
North Andover, MA
Contact: Rosey Gonzalez

Family Healthy Choices Parenting Education
Newburyport High School, Classroom 310
214 High Street
Newburyport, MA 
Contact: Jill Levine

Positive Co-Parenting in Difficult Times
Psychotherapy Associates of North Reading
Northern Essex Community College
100 Elliot Street
Haverhill, MA
978-664-2566, ext. 5
Contact: Dr. Donna Whipple

Reducing the Effects of Divorce (Spanish & English)
Cambridge College
280 Merrimack Street
Entrance North B, 5th Floor, Suite 502
Lawrence, MA  01843
Contact: Arthur Baxter

Please visit for the list of programs in other counties throughout Massachusetts.


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Recent Child Support Guideline Changes

6 months ago (September 2017), Massachusetts substantially changed the game of family court and enacted the new Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. These adjusted guidelines supersede all previous versions and bring with them some major changes. Some of the notable adjustments that are most likely to affect the average person are:

  • Daycare Expenses: The guidelines now take the expenses of Child Care and Health Insurance into much larger consideration.
  • Parenting Time: The prior guidelines consisted of three categories of parenting time (a basic formula, a formula for when the parties shared equal parenting time, and a separate formula for when one parent had more than 1/3 but less than 50/50 parenting time). The new guidelines simplified this was leaving us with only two possible formula; when the parents have equal parenting time when they do not.
  • Child Support for Children over 18: Child Support was always confusing for children that were no longer minors. If a child is is over 18, but still principally dependent on the parent, a parent could still receive child support. That is even true for children up to the age of 23 if they were full-time students. The new guidelines have implemented a 25% reduction in the amount of child support paid for children are over the age of 18.


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Quote of the Day

“Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you” -Uknown

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Quote of the Day

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost

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Quote of the Day

” You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.” -Mandy Hale

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Which Parent Gets Child-Related Tax Breaks After Divorce?

Divorce causes tax issues; it’s as simple as that.

Are you the custodial parent?

For tax purposes, a child is usually treated as a “belonging” to the parent who has custody for the greater part of the year. That parent is considered to be the “custodial parent” and the other the “non-custodial parent.”

The general rule says that only the custodial parent can claim the dependent exemption deduction for the child. However, an exception to the general rule allows the custodial parent to release to the non-custodial parent the right to claim the designated child as a dependent. Making this concession doesn’t help the custodial parent’s tax situation, but it is often a necessary part of settling a divorce.

The Non-Custodial Parent Rule Can Mean Big Tax Savings

Under the non-custodial parent rule, the designated child is treated as a qualifying child of the non-custodial parent if all the following requirements are met.

  1. Support Requirement: Over half the child’s support for the year must be provided by one or both parents.
  2. Divorced or Separated Requirement: The parents must be divorced or separated under a written agreement at the end of the year or have lived apart duirng the last six months of the year.
  3. Custody Requirement: The child must be in the custody of one or both parents for over half the year.
  4. Written Declaration Requirement: The custodial parent must sign a written declaration releasing to the non-custodial parent the right to claim the designated child as a dependent for the year. The easiest way to meet this requirement is to have the custodial parent sign IRS From 8332 (Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent). The non-custodial parent must attach a copy of Form 9332 to his or her Form 104.

Dependency Exemption Deduction: This deduction is $4,150 for 2018 (up from $4,050 in 2017).

Child Tax Credit: This credit is $1,000 for each eligible child (subject to phase-out for higher-income parents).

Higher Education Tax Credits: The American Opportunity Credit can be worth up to $2,500 during the first four years of a child’s college education. The Lifetime Learning Credit can be worth up to $2,000, and it covers just about any higher education tuition costs (Both credits are phased out as the parent’s income goes up, but Lifetime credit is phased out earlier.)

Student Loan Interest Deduction: This deduction can be for up to $2,500 of qualified student loan interest expense paid by the parent (subject to phase-out for higher-income parents).

Tuition Deduction: This deduction can be as much as $4,000 for higher education tuition and mandatory enrollment fees. (At higher income levels, the maximum deduction drops to $2,000 before being completely disallowed at still-higher levels).

Some Breaks Are Available to Both Parents

Whether the non-custodial parent rule applies or not, the non-custodial parent can usually claim the tax breaks listed below as long as the first three noncustodial parent rule requirements are met (the support requirement, the divorced or separated requirement, and the custody requirement). The custodial parent can also usually claim these breaks:

  • Itemized deductions for the child’s medical expenses paid by the parent.
  • Tax-free employer-provided health care benefits for the child.
  • Tax-free health savings account (HSA) distributions to cover the child’s medical expenses.

Some Breaks Are Available to Both Parents

The non-custodial parent cannot claim the following based on a child to whom the non-custodial parent rule applies. The custodial parent can if he or she meets the applicable tax-law requirements.

Head of Household Filing Statue: Filing as a head of household is better than filing as a single taxpayer, because the standard deduction is bigger and the tax brackets are looser. A non-custodial parent cannot claim head of household filing status based on a child who falls under the non-custodial parent rule.

Earned Income Tax Credit: In 2018 this credit can be worth up to $3,468 for one qualifying child and up to $6,444 for three or more qualifying children (up to $3,400 and $6,318 respectively in 2017). It is phased out as the parent’s income goes up. A non-custodial parent cannot claim the credit for a child who falls under the non-custodial parent rule.

Child Care Tax Credit: This credit can range from $600 to $1,050 for one qualifying child ($1,200 to $2,100 for two or more), based on the parent’s income. A non-custodial parent cannot claim the credit for a child who falls under the non-custodial parent rule.

Tax-Free Childcare Assistance: This break allows up to $5,000 in federal income-tax-free reimbursements for qualified childcare expenses under an employer plan. A non-custodial parent cannot receive tax-free reimbursements for a child who falls under the non-custodial parent rule.

(QRGA, LLP Nov. 16th 2017)

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New Years

“Be at war with you vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” -Benjamin Franklin

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Quote of the Day

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” -Calvin Coolidge

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