Divorce Mediation & Financial Matters

  • A couple is barely making it now, financially. How will they support themselves and their children when they separate or divorce?
  • How much guidance do mediators offer to couples with regard to a fair division of assets, and with regard to a fair division of support of the children?
  • If a parent desires that the other return to work to help support the children, can (s)he influence the other parent to do so in mediation?
  • Do all couples in Massachusetts use the Child Support Guidelines promulgated by the Court?
  • Do couples need to exchange financial information about their changing finances while their children are growing up?
  • What happens if the incomes of parents go up or down during the time they are supporting their children?

Q: A couple is barely making it now, financially. How will they support themselves and their children when they separate or divorce?

Marital separation is always more costly for a family as compared to living in one household. Through the use of budgets, which include monthly planning, a couple can review their spending habits, and also determine where modifications can be made in order to maintain a more balanced budget. Often, the mediator is able to offer suggestions and options regarding spending and saving habits.

Q: How much guidance do mediators offer to couples with regard to a fair division of assets, and with regard to a fair division of support of the children?

Every couple receives information about “Chapter 208 section 34”, the law in Massachusetts which outlines the factors a judge would consider in making an equitable distribution of marital assets. Mediation clients may use an equal division as a starting point, and then give one another rationale for how much and why the distribution should vary from an equal division. In fact, mediators provide couples with a high degree of guidance by providing examples of alternative perspectives with regard to a fair division of their assets.

In a case where the children live with one parent primarily and visit with the other, the Child Support Guidelines are considered to be “presumptive” by a family court. Where parents share “custody”, having the children live with each of them approximately an equal amount of time, they may use the guidelines as a point of departure, and factor in a ratio of children’s expenses to their respective incomes.

Q: If a parent desires that the other return to work to help support the children, can (s)he influence the other parent to do so in mediation?

Not infrequently a husband or wife will “request” of the other parent that he or she return to work, or increase part-time hours, to aid in the support of the children. A mediator might help the parent phrase the desire as a request, and as one of the options available to increase total divorced family income. A mediator might help the other parent hear the request and help that person articulate beliefs about children’s well-being while being with a parent versus being with child care personnel. Together the parents can decide how their interests in supporting the whole family can be balanced.

Q: Do all couples in Massachusetts use the Child Support Guidelines promulgated by the Court?

Many couples whose children live with one parent primarily use the Child Support Guidelines to determine their relative contributions to the support of the children. Those parents who use other methods of determining relative contributions of the parents to the children’s support are those:

  • *whose children live with them approximately equal time
  • whose children have special needs or aptitudes
  • who have unusually low or high housing costs or;
  • who have incomes in excess of the Guidelines

Mediators assist the couple in balancing the needs for child support, expenses of the children and their incomes.

Q: Do couples need to exchange financial information about their changing finances while their children are growing up?

Couples are given the option of including in their Agreements, provisions that deal with changing future finances and give them the ability to modify the child support amount when changes occur. These provisions usually call for a periodic exchange of financial information such as tax returns and W-2 forms.

Q: What happens if the incomes of parents go up or down during the time they are supporting their children?

All child support orders are modifiable based upon a material change in circumstance. Mediated agreements often provide the couple with the ability to review and modify their support order in the event of a significant change in financial circumstances, and may do so without resorting to the adversarial process.

Learn if mediation is a viable option for you to consider.

With offices in Danvers and Needham, Massachusetts. Tracy Fischer provides mediation and family law services to individuals and families throughout the Boston Metro region including Andover, Beverly, Boxford, Burlington, Danvers, Gloucester, Marblehead, Newton, Needham, Peabody, Salem, Tewksbury, Topsfield, Waltham, Watertown, Wayland, Wellesley, Weston and Wilmington, Massachusetts. Contact Massachusetts mediator Tracy Fischer to schedule a confidential consultation.