Who Will Pay for College?

College Graduation

The well being of children is a major issue of concern during a divorce proceeding. Parties are often at odds over custody, visitation and child support for minor children. Another common issue though, is the matter of determining who takes on the financial responsibilities of a college aged child, one who is too old for custody disputes, but too young for independence. According to an article in Forbes Magazine, answering this question can be a challenging and complex process, further complicated by emotions and ill-feelings between the spouses. The potential for conflict can undermine the the importance of a child’s college education, making mediation a highly useful tool for settling this question.

In most states, child support obligations end when the child reaches the age of majority, which generally occurs between the ages of 18 and 21. This varies in some jurisdictions, depending on when the child finishes high school. Unless there are outstanding arrears due, payments to the custodial parent end, leaving non-custodial parents with no further financial obligations to the child. But, as anyone with a college student knows, the financial obligation of parenting is far from over when a child turns 18. Most college students cannot pursue their educations without some level of support from a parent.

What You Should Know

According to the Forbes article, there are several important issues that a divorcing parent must remember:

  • Parents are not legally obligated to pay for college, unless ordered by the court. There are no laws requiring either parent to pay college tuition or provide financial assistance to the college student in furtherance of his or her studies. Many divorcing parents are surprised to learn that their former spouse is not automatically forced to contribute to a child’s college education. It understandably seems unfair to the custodial parent, as well as the child, but this one of the harsh realities of divorce.

  • In Massachusetts, a judge can order a parent to pay for college. The court may look at various factors in making a determination, including the custody of all children and the income of each spouse. Debts and any previous payment arrangements may also be considered. If the judge makes a ruling about payment, it becomes a court order. The parent is required to pay and noncompliance is punishable by the courts.

  • A divorce settlement agreement is the best tool for addressing college tuition payments. No one can always predict what a judge will decide when presented with a divorce issue. For this reason, it is preferable for the parties to sit down together and mediate a mutually beneficial agreement about college tuition payments. A signed settlement agreement can also become an enforceable court order, once it is accepted by the judge.

Your child’s education is of great importance and its consideration deserves a serious, collaborative effort by both parties. There are no set rules for the settlement agreement. A couple can tailor the tuition payments in any way that is mutually comfortable. It can entail a lump sum payment in advance or a monthly payment obligation, similar to child support.

The Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC can assist you and your spouse in creating a collaborative separation agreement that includes college tuition payment terms. Call the office today at (781)285-8989 for a consultation.

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Mediating Alimony in Divorce Cases

Under certain circumstances in Massachusetts, an ex-spouse can be required to make regular payments to their former partner. This is best known as alimony, or “maintenance.”

divorce mediationMediation can be useful for resolving alimony issues, both in the initial divorce, or if one or both parties seek to modify the maintenance obligation. Because the issue of alimony is financial in nature, compromise may be possible, and mediation can avoid expending substantial sums on litigation. Many studies have found that mediation enables the parties to reach a settlement more expeditiously than litigation, save money by avoiding unnecessary litigation costs, and increase compliance with agreements.

Mediation Benefits

Mediation is voluntary, and so the parties must both agree on the reach of the ultimate agreement before it takes effect. This is beneficial, because parties are more likely to comply with alimony obligations if they have agreed to the amounts at issue. Also, the parties may be more likely to believe that an agreement is fair if they enter into it willingly.

With mediation, the parties work with a mediator, who is a neutral third party, to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. The mediator should be knowledgeable about the provisions of Massachusetts divorce law, including those provisions involving the alimony. Under state law, the court may grant either temporary or permanent maintenance for either a husband or a wife, and for the length of time that the court deems just, without any consideration of marital misconduct, after considering all relevant factors. Some of the common considerations when deciding on alimony include:

  • Each party’s income and property, including non-marital property assigned to the party seeking maintenance;
  • Each party’s needs;
  • Each party’s present and future earning capacity;
  • Whether a party lost present or future earning capacity due to the time devoted to care giving responsibilities, or having foregone or deferred education, training, employment, or other career opportunities because of the marriage;
  • The time needed to enable a party seeking maintenance to acquire education, training, and employment;
  • Whether caregiving responsibilities for a child make it appropriate for a parent to stay home and not seek employment;
  • The parties’ standard of living during the marriage;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The parties’ ages and their physical and emotional health;
  • The tax consequences of the parties’ property division;
  • The contributions, if any, to the education or career or career potential of the other spouse by the spouse seeking maintenance;
  • Any valid agreement of the parties; and
  • Any other factor the court expressly finds just and equitable.

Because the terms of the marital settlement agreement, apart from obligations regarding children, are binding on the parties, unless the court determines that the agreement is unconscionable, it is useful to obtain independent legal advice before signing the ultimate agreement. Further, the parties will need to make truthful and full disclosure of their income and assets, as providing false information and failing to disclose assets can be grounds for finding that the marital agreement is unconscionable.

If you are divorcing in Massachusetts and could benefit from mediation, please take a moment to contact our family law firm at the Law Office of Martin Murphy.

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It’s All About the Kids

I was cleaning up “that pile” on my desk this morning. You know ”that pile”- old notes from conferences, industry magazines with articles you meant to get to, old “to do” lists. Anyhow, I found an Ask Amy column from December of 2011 that I had cut out of the paper.

The column addresses the letter of a teenage girl who was sad, anxious and worried about all the fighting her parents were doing. She was seeking advice on what she should do.

Amy responds by saying that conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it leads to a resolution. She also suggested the young girl approach her parents at a quieter moment and share her feelings of anxiousness and sadness.

I wonder how it turned out for that young woman and her family.

As a collaborative attorney and mediator, I often get to witness the interplay of a couple in conflict and the children of the marriage. When an emphasis is placed on protecting the children, as it is in mediation and collaborative practice, the new reconstituted family often benefits.

Despite the many disagreements my clients have, they almost all indicate a high level of desire to minimize the impact on the children of the marriage. That common goal often serves as the linchpin to build the rest of a sustained agreement.

When there are disagreements as to how best achieve that joint goal, there are a tremendous variety of resources available to families including child specialists, therapists and parenting classes. When those resources are properly marshaled for a family, they can provide a structure and support system to help the children of divorce for many years to come.

While I will most likely never find out how the family in the column made out, I do know that my clients that have made the process choice of mediation or collaborative law have a much better chance of helping their children move through the divorce more successfully.

Martin Murphy, Esq. is a collaborative attorney and seasoned mediator. He is dedicated to using the principles and benefits of mediation and collaborative law in the general representation of businesses, their owners and in helping families facing divorce, child custody and other family law issues. The Law Office of Martin Murphy, LLC located in Norwood MA, serves clients in the surrounding communities including Attleboro, Canton, Foxboro, Franklin, Mansfield, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, North Attleboro, Plainville, Sharon, Walpole, Westwood, and Wrentham., Marty can be reached at marty@martinmurphyatlaw.com

Convenience of Mediation and Collaborative Law




Mediation and Collaborative Law are Cost Effective




The Right Parenting Plan

The kids heading off on a Disney cruise through the Bahamas with one parent may seem completely reasonable, but how about the other parent wanting to visit relatives with the kids…. in Somalia?

International travel is one of the many areas in a parenting plan where parents have to be particularly thoughtful and considerate of the future. Parents headed through a divorce might want to consider this and other important issues.

Drop Off Duty
Which parent is responsible for dropping off the kids? What happens when the kids are intentionally running late? One way to avoid the “waiting in the driveway” syndrome is to have the parent with the kids be responsible for delivering them to the other parent.

Time Off vs. Time With
In today’s economy with both parents usually working, the primary or custodial parent is often looking for some “time off.” Making sure the other parent lives up to his or her allotted time allows for the custodial parent to rest and recharge their batteries.

Sick Days, Doctors’ Appointments and No Power Days
Providing for “surprise days” and scheduled doctors’ appointments will make for a better parenting plan.

She’s a Teenager!
Preparing a flexible parenting plan that allows for the needs of a sociable teenager is wise. At the same time, it is equally important that the parents try to have a consistent voice about what is permitted behavior and what is not!

Family Traditions
If your spouse’s family has a tradition of spending the 4th of July with multi-generations in New Hampshire, are you sure you want to demand alternating all such holidays? At the same time, divorce can be all about starting new traditions with your kids. Finding the best parenting plan for your family is an important part of the divorce process.

Mediation and Collaborative Law can provide you with the best opportunity to come up with the best plan for your family. If you have any questions on finding the right parenting plan, please contact my office for a free process presentation.

Martin Murphy, Esq. is a collaborative attorney and seasoned mediator. He is dedicated to using the principles and benefits of mediation and collaborative law in the general representation of businesses, their owners and in helping families facing divorce, child custody and other family law issues. The Law Office of Martin Murphy, LLC located in Norwood MA, serves clients in the surrounding communities including Attleboro, Canton, Foxboro, Franklin, Mansfield, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, North Attleboro, Plainville, Sharon, Walpole, Westwood, and Wrentham., Marty can be reached at marty@martinmurphyatlaw.com

5 Things You Need To Do To Get The Most Out of Your Divorce Mediation

1. Be Flexible

Don’t begin a mediation fixated or stuck on one outcome for a particular topic. Whether it relates to the kids, the house, or the retirement accounts, flexibility can often lead to options that result in a better outcome than what you “had to have” at the beginning of the process.

2. Be Prepared

Most seasoned mediators will provide their clients with an agenda for each meeting containing a list of topics that have been agreed upon. Be ready to discuss those topics as best you possibly can. Being unprepared will often lead to a meeting that is far less productive.

3. Be Advised

While a mediator may help educate a couple on a particular topic, neutrality prevents him or her from advocating for either party. Someone going through mediation is often best served by meeting with an attorney twice: once at the beginning of the process to understand his or her rights and responsibilities and again at the end of the process to review the proposed agreement.

4. Be Proactive

Your mediation is an opportunity for you to help plan for your future. Parenting issues, the fair and reasonable division of assets, and the handling of marital liabilities may all have a very significant impact on your new life moving forward. Truly engage in the process and help set the course for your new future.

5. Be Forward-Looking

While there are many times in life to “look back.” mediation is often not one of them. While you may need to briefly speak about the past to inform the present, mediation is really about coming up with a plan for the future. You have begun the divorce process because you don’t want to keep repeating the past. Let mediation be one of the first steps away from the past and towards a brighter future.

 

While this is not an exhaustive list of approaches, if you follow these five steps you will maximize the benefits you receive from your divorce mediation. If you have a question about how these steps may help you or about mediation in general, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

Martin Murphy, Esq. is a collaborative attorney and seasoned mediator. He is dedicated to using the principles and benefits of mediation and collaborative law in the general representation of businesses, their owners and in helping families facing divorce, child custody and other family law issues. The Law Office of Martin Murphy, LLC located in Norwood MA, serves clients in the surrounding communities including Attleboro, Canton, Foxboro, Franklin, Mansfield, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, North Attleboro, Plainville, Sharon, Walpole, Westwood, and Wrentham., Marty can be reached at marty@martinmurphyatlaw.com

The Good Intentions of All

One Thursday a month I volunteer my time at Wrentham District Court for Summary Process hearings.  Summary Process is the process by which a landlord terminates a tenancy and evicts or removes the tenant from rental property.  Before the cases are brought before a judge the parties are offered an opportunity to resolve their case through mediation, and that is where I come in.  The landlord and the tenant and I sit in the hallway in a makeshift mediation space and try to develop a resolution that is fair and agreed to by both parties.   Sometimes we run out of time and the case ends up back before the judge after all.  However, a large percentage of the disputes are resolved out in that hallway.   Most times the tenants have good intentions and the landlords are prepared to be reasonable; sitting in the hallway with a neutral party helps both sides come to an agreement that makes sense for both sides.

If both sides are truly committed to seeking a resolution that is fair to both, they are good candidates for mediation.  While they might begin the process with very different definitions of what is fair, the mediation will often provide them the opportunity to see their situation form different perspectives.  It is this shift in perspectives that often leads to different options for resolution.

While the average person may think a summary process case is just about the money, there are often deeper levels of issues.  Summary Process cases deal with a person’s shelter, one of the most basic human needs.  These cases often impact custody of children, personal pride, and the ability of someone to begin moving forward with their life.

The same process that I use with the landlords and the tenants can also be used in divorce proceedings.  Sometimes resolutions can’t be reached with mediation and the couple winds up in litigation.  However, in a very high percentage of cases both the husband and the wife have good intentions and even though emotions may run high, they are nonetheless prepared to be reasonable.  Sitting in a room with a neutral party helps both sides reach a better resolution.

Martin Murphy, Esq. is a collaborative attorney and seasoned mediator. He is dedicated to using the principles and benefits of mediation and collaborative law in the general representation of businesses, their owners and in helping families facing divorce, child custody and other family law issues.  The Law Office of Martin Murphy, LLC located in Norwood MA, serves clients in the surrounding communities including Attleboro, Canton, Foxboro, Franklin, Mansfield, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, North Attleboro, Plainville, Sharon, Walpole, Westwood, and Wrentham., Marty can be reached at marty@martinmurphyatlaw.com

What is Convenience?

What Is Convenience?

When one Googles “Convenience of Litigation,” several sites that reference a “convenience store in litigation” are presented- that isn’t exactly what I am searching for.  However, when one Googles “Convenience of Mediation” or  “Convenience of Collaborative Law,” many sites appear that do indeed explain how mediation or Collaborative Law can be considered convenient for a client.  Why is this?  Simply put, litigation, with its delays and often inconvenient scheduling, is not typically viewed as convenient.  Mediation and Collaborative Law are positioned to provide clients the result they seek through a far more convenient process.

 

A few months ago I met a couple that came to my office for a free process presentation on a Thursday. They decided to mediate their divorce with my office, and I was able to accommodate them the following Monday evening.  On Tuesday I drafted documents and met with them Tuesday afternoon to finalize and notarize. The agreement was presented to and approved by a judge at the couple’s 1A hearing that Wednesday..   While this story and its timetable is not typical, it clearly demonstrates the potential convenience aspect of Mediation.

 

Last year, I mediated a case for a couple that lasted ten months. While this appears to be in stark contrast to the expediency of the other case, the longer mediation time was the choice for this couple.  Once we initially met and went over the parameters of the mediation, they decided that they would wait to iron out details until their house was sold. During that time we had a few meetings to cover additional matters, and once the house was sold the final agreement was crafted.  Their mediation was convenient for them because its timing met their needs and timetable.

 

In the last couple of weeks, I have completed two different mediations where one of the parties was out of state for the mediation sessions.  While I prefer to mediate in person, sometimes the logistic and financial realities require more creative solutions.  Conference calls, video conferencing and secure document sharing can assist in providing a convenient mediation format.

 

I’ve finished up a Collaborative Law case where one of the parties had a fair level of anxiety over the scheduling of the meetings and the potential impact on their profession.  The team addressed this early on and was able to devise a schedule that removed that anxiety from the equation.

 

Going through a divorce is a stressful situation in and of itself.  Convenience of the process would certainly lend itself to being less stressful.  Choosing mediation or Collaborative Law as a resolution process is a way to minimize that stress.  If you would like to learn more about the benefits of mediation and Collaborative Law, contact my office today.

 

Located in Norwood, MA, The Law Office of Martin Murphy, LLC assists clients from the surrounding areas including Attleboro, Canton, Foxboro, Franklin, Mansfield, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, North Attleboro, Plainville, Sharon, Walpole, Westwood, and Wrentham.  Contact the office today to determine how the principles and benefits of mediation and Collaborative Law may be helpful for you.

The Convenience of Mediation and Collaborative Law in Massachusetts

Summary:

Mediation and Collaborative Law provide you with a sense of convenience that you may not find with typical litigation.

Video Transcription:

Mediation and Collaborative Law can provide you a sense of convenience as you go through this process that you just won’t find with traditional litigation. If you litigate, you get put on the court calendar, and you’re subject to the whims and demands of a court that’s understaffed and overburdened right now. With mediation and collaborative law you will have scheduled meetings that are calendared well in advance, there will be set agendas, and you’ll be prepared for those agendas to talk about those issues that are coming up that day. In addition, these meetings can be scheduled earlier in the morning, later in the day- whatever really works best for your schedule.