Divorce Mediation Blog

Alimony Reform and Child Support Changes: Judge Ginsburg’s View

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

In the April 14, 2014 Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, the most thoughtful Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judge of his generation, Hon. Edward M. Ginsburg (ret), laments that 2012’s alimony overhaul by the legislature and 2013’s quadrennial review and revisions to the child support guidelines by the Trial Court add up to a giant missed opportunity, and a failure that will hurt families for years to come. Specifically, Judge Ginsburg, who devoted a good chunk of his two decades on the bench to advocating for predictability and consistency in all things support points out that no one thought to look at spousal support and child support as a piece. He is right.

We have all been focused intensely on how the new alimony laws work; how the new guidelines work; and how we might manipulate the two into making sensible orders that are tax-efficient. But in debating the trees, we lost sight of the forest: why didn’t the lawmakers look at these two cognate and connected subjects as two parts of the same puzzle that they are? How do we rationalize two sets of support theory into a fair, efficient and sustainable whole, not just for the privileged few who will take the time in mediation, or with sophisticated counsel, to develop a custom-made support regime, but for everyone? Reform is not reform without addressing all relevant considerations; and here, half the house was built as a tudor and the other side a cape. The result is a leaky home.

An example. We recently had to explain the following muddle to mediation clients. Under the new child support guidelines, a mother with 2 children would often receive 18.4% of the Husband’s gross income as child support, and no alimony, he having income of about $200,000.00 per year. The same woman learned that if she had no kids at all, she might expect 30 – 35% of the very same income, as alimony. Granted, we explained, taxable income is worth less than its gross sum. But is it worth less that 18.4% on the gross? Not likely.

Another example. As we have discussed here before, the alimony law says that the court may not take dollars into account that have already been tapped for child support, suggesting that child support is computed first on income up to $250,000.00 per year, with excess income only being addressed for alimony. Meanwhile, the child support guidelines say that the court may calculate alimony first, and then child support. We have argued before that sound discretion and good divorce mediation can turn these conflicts into opportunity in the search for a sensible result. But the legal inconsistency is undeniable.

Would it not have made sense for some body to review the matter of family support as of a whole? Is it too late?

Thanks to Judge Ginsburg for this valuable and disturbing insight.

Get e-mail notifications of new blog posts! Enter email address below.:

Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles

recent posts


Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC Family Law Arbitration mediator Levine Dispute Resolutions family support Uniform Arbitration Act health insurance separation alimony law Levine Dispute Resolution Center lawyers alimony statute private dispute resolution Massachusetts COLA Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth resolve disputes family law mediation arbitrators DOMA family law arbitrator pre-ARA alimony IRC §2704 Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act divorce mediations divorce mediation Twinkies medical benefits divorced alimony orders Defense of Marriage Act Self-adjusting alimony orders alimony reform legislation Baseball Arbitration divorce lawyers special master arbitrator Divorce divorce arbitration litigation divorce mediator support orders Massachusetts lawyers LDRC conciliation disputes self-adjusting alimony Boston dispute resolution how baseball arbitration works family and probate law disputes Divorce Agreements traditional negotiations Chouteau Levine health coverage divorce arbitrators divorce arbitrator divorce agreement Baseball med/arb arbitration med-arb Levine Dispute Resolution mediations family mediation Cohabitation The Seven Sins of Alimony Massachusetts alimony annulment lawyer-attended mediation Massachusetts divorce mediators Obamacare family law Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Major League Baseball Arbitration rehabilitative alimony divorce and family law mediators divorce and family law Massachusetts alimony and child support divorce judgment lawyer child support mediators family law arbitrators Child Support Guidelines mediation Baseball Players high-risk methodology Same Sex Marriage MLB labor agreement alimony divorce litigation Alimony Reform Act facilitated negotiations divorce mediators SJC Matrimonial Arbitration divorce process fraud General term alimony