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


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