December 2011 Newsletter

Happy New Year! 

Ten resolutions to consider for the New Year.


  1. No matter what your husband/wife does, don't discuss it with the children.
  2. On holidays and other significant events, like graduations, consider including your ex-spouse/soon to be ex-spouse if at all possible for the sake of the children.
  3. If you do include your ex-spouse or soon to be ex-spouse, try to be pleasant.
  4. If you're angry or have an issue with your ex-spouse or soon to be ex-spouse, refrain from putting it in writing in a text and/or email.
  5. NEVER EVER write about your ex-spouse or soon to be ex-spouse or his or her family on Facebook!
  6. Don't use the children as a messenger, or to deliver child support payments.
  7. Be discreet if and when you start dating. Don't rush to introduce the children to your "significant other." Your parenting time should be quality time between you and your children.
  8. Requests for reimbursements of uninsured medical and dental expenses should be made promptly, according to the terms of your order or judgment. It isn't fair or reasonable to send six months or a year's worth at one time.
  9. Read your court orders or divorce agreement carefully. It's your bible and you need follow the order/judgment!
  10. Remember, side agreements are not enforceable. So follow Resolution Number 9 carefully.


Maybe if you follow these resolutions 2012 will be better than 2011!



At the present time a court may order both child support and alimony payments depending on the facts of a case. The court may order that a support order is allocated as child support, as alimony, or an unallocated support order meaning that the order has not been specifically designated as either child support or alimony. This can be an important designation, as child support is neither taxable income nor is it tax deductible, whereas alimony payments are. Unallocated support orders may include language that allows the parties to indicate specific allocations at a later date as part of future negotiations, or at a final hearing on the merits.


In most cases, a specific child support order will be entered, pursuant to the child support guidelines, and there will be no alimony or spousal support order at that time. Additional support orders for alimony may be ordered when there is a great discrepancy in income, there is an identified need by the recipient spouse, and/or additional monies are needed for a period of time. At any time alimony is ordered, the courts must consider the needs of the recipient spouse, and the ability of the payor spouse to make such payments. The child support obligations continue until the children are emancipated. Under the present law, emancipation of all the children would terminate the payor's obligation to make child support payments. The termination of child support payments would be a decrease in the recipient spouse's income, and may give rise to a change in circumstance, allowing that spouse to then file a complaint for modification, to request alimony.


Under the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, there is an important change regarding the interplay of child support and alimony. The court continues to have discretion to order child support under the then present child support guidelines in terms of unallocated or undifferentiated alimony and child support. However, Section 53(g) specifically states that if there is an order of alimony either concurrently with or subsequent to a child support order, the combined duration of the alimony and child support shall not exceed the longer of: (i) the alimony or child support duration available at the time of the divorce; or (ii) rehabilitative alimony beginning upon the termination of child support. The durational limits set forth in the new law will control. Under the new law, although the children become emancipated, a recipient may not be eligible for alimony, and/or may be eligible for a limited period of time. Recipients of child support should explore what if any impact the new law may have on his/her particular situation or eligibility for alimony in the future.

Melaney's Corner


Melaney Hodge

Those who have gone through a divorce in Massachusetts know the judge has the ability to order the payment of college tuition and related expenses; however, I am willing to bet that not many of you know that Massachusetts is one of only a few states that permit such orders.  Most states in the U.S. forbid judges from imposing an order related to college expenses concluding that such orders are a violation of equal protection because they treat children different solely based on the marital status of the parents.  It is interesting to consider whether such orders afford more protection to children of divorced parents than others.


This was discussed in my family law class and many students were adverse to the Massachusetts policy, which is surprising given the amount of debt we are under in law school.  Everyone was concerned with what happens when the parent just does not have the financial ability to contribute.  At this office, we have had many situations in which a noncustodial parent was not included in the college selection process and the child chose a school far beyond the financial means of the parent.  While judges compensate for this issue by charging the parent the tuition rate of UMass Amherst, hard feelings are still experienced because an individual is required to pay for something with which they had no meaningful contribution.  It is also important to note that courts would be unable to order college payments if the child's parents are still married.


Issue: 29

scales of justice

In This Issue
Happy New Year!
The Interplay of Child Support Obligations and Alimony Under the Alimony Reform Act of 2011
Melaney's Corner
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If anyone has a topic that would be of general interest, please do not hesitate to contact the office and let us know what items would be of general interest to the readers of this newsletter.
Susan C. Ryan, Esq.
Law Office of Susan Castleton Ryan, PC
(781) 982-8850

This newsletter is designed to keep you up-to-date with changes in the law.  For help with these or any other legal issues, please call our firm today.
The information in this newsletter is intended solely for your information .  It does not constitute legal advice, and it should not be relied on without a discussion of your specific situation with an attorney.