Spring Into Change


The start of each new year inspires many people to make resolutions to improve themselves or their situations. These vows to change – to exercise more, eat better, read more, etc. – are positive and worthwhile.

The coming of Spring is another season that offers the promise of fresh possibilities, new life, and the opportunity to turn over a new leaf. We plant a seed into moist soil and watch it grow and ripen into a plant. We watch the explosion of green everywhere as tiny buds blossom into leaves and flowers. We throw open our doors and windows to let in the fresh air and sunlight, and embark on spring cleaning with a fervor.

While physical change is a good place to start, why stop there? Use this time to make much-needed changes in your relationships and communication patterns, too. We see conflict nearly everywhere we look these days. Turn on the news, and it is there. Read the newspaper, and it jumps out at you. Go into our homes, look at our families, and we see squabbles, dysfunction, and division.

Maybe it is time to take a different approach and learn how to resolve conflict constructively. While many situations are outside of our control, we are able to determine our response to circumstances. Everyone fights or gets into disagreements from time to time; that is human nature. The important thing is to learn how to work things out in a civil, productive way.

As a Mediator, I do not exclusively meet with people who are in a crisis, legal situation, or divorce. Sometimes my clients just want to change their relational patterns, and they come to me for help and advice. If you are ready to learn how to better resolve issues with your spouse (or significant other), your children (or adult children), your parents, or anyone else, reach out to me and we can schedule an appointment. The best kind of change always starts with you.

Photo credit: Cristian N. MORMOLOC

New Year, New (Tax) Questions

Following the December 2017 passage of the “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act”, we now have new tax laws in place – sort of. The law designed to “simplify” the tax code is over 500 pages. It was hastily drafted and hastily passed. The truth is that no one really knows yet what is in it, or (especially) what its impact will be. There will likely be conflicts discovered within the provisions, and much legislative and regulatory action will be needed to figure it all out. Divorcing taxpayers are not the only ones affected, but they are affected in many ways. A noteworthy change is that alimony payors will no longer be able to deduct their payments for orders entered after 2018. The ability to do so and to shift taxes to the lower income recipient has been an important benefit for many divorcing families. Without this option, more money will go to the government and less will be available for families.

2017 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Important Modifications

The long-anticipated changes to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines have been published and will take effect on September 15, 2017.

By law, these state Guidelines must be updated every four years by a Task Force appointed by the Chief Justice of the Trial Court. They were last updated in 2013, but significant changes made then to the child support formula and to parenting time language left many confused and uncertain about what to expect when appearing before a Judge. As a result, many of the Guideline changes seen in 2017 address these issues.

Below are the major Guideline changes from 2017, along with a brief explanation of each modification.  It will take a while for the Courts to sort out application of these changes. Mediation or Collaborative Practice processes help clients determine optimal family support amounts.

Minimum and Maximum Child Support Amounts

Since 2002, the minimum amount of child support in Massachusetts has been $18.46 per week, or roughly $80 per month. The Task Force recommended that the minimum support order be increased instead to $25 per week, with the presumptive minimum support order applying to combined income of up to $115 per week. While the change doesn’t reflect a significant difference financially, it acknowledges and makes accommodation for rising costs of inflation. Read More >>

Divorce or Separation To Do List

Protect Yourself During Divorce or Separation By Getting a Good Therapist, Financial Advisor, and Attorney. Divorce and separation bring up so many inherent difficulties. Since this is such a vulnerable time, it is very important to protect yourself by getting a good therapist, financial advisor, and attorney. Here’s why:

  1. 1. Get a Good Therapist

Emotionally, individuals going through a divorce or separation are understandably in turmoil. Should I? Should I not? Why is s/he doing this? I don’t want this. I think I want this. What about the children? So many questions and confusion arise.

Everybody’s situation is different, so unfortunately there is no single correct answer to any of these questions. Additionally, attorneys or Mediators cannot help with the emotional questions. For these types of issues, it is best to set up a support system of friends, relatives, and professionals who can assist.  Forming a relationship with a mental health professional with whom you are comfortable can help immensely during this difficult time. This can be even more valuable than the support of friends or family, who may sometimes tell you only what they think you want to hear, or base their input on their own situations or those of their friends. Since everybody’s situation is different, however, this is not always helpful or relevant.

In a previous post, I discussed in more detail the role of mental health professionals in divorce.

  1. 2. Get a Good Financial Advisor

Beyond emotional concerns, divorce also brings up many practical considerations, especially those centered around money. How will I/we live? How much child support will I get/pay? Will there be alimony? What about health insurance?

It is critical to get the proper help with financial questions. Finding a good financial advisor who has experience working with clients in divorce is invaluable.  S/he can run support numbers, evaluate tax consequences, and provide context for many of the decisions that you will have to make at this time.

In a previous post, I discussed the role of financial advisors during divorce in more detail.

3. Get Good Legal Advice

Equally as important is getting legal advice. Not only is every situation different, but the laws are also always changing. That means what was true 10 years ago when your best friend’s godmother’s niece got divorced is not necessarily true now.

Divorce law can change in two ways: the legislature can make new laws or changes old ones; or the Court can rule on the interpretation of the laws, which may change how the laws are applied in the future. These types of legal changes happen daily. Some are predictable—we are expecting new child support guidelines soon, for example (check back for an update when that happens)—and some are not.

Whether you are in a Mediation or Collaborative process, having an attorney who can provide you with guidance and inform you about the most current law and its application is critical.

In a previous post, I discussed choosing a divorce attorney in more detail.

As difficult as divorce or separation can be, there is no need to wander through the difficult terrain alone. A good therapist, financial advisor, and attorney will help you navigate the journey and arrive on the other side in much better shape.

Putting My Mediation and Collaborative Skills to Work During a Professional Transition

I usually spend my days helping divorcing couples navigate the separation and legalities of ending their marriage or co-parenting through the use of Mediation or Collaborative Practice.  For the past few months, however, I’ve been doing something a little different professionally.  I have been very involved in the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) for 15 years in various roles—as a member, committee member/chair, Board member, President, and then back to member. I have had a lot of history with this organization. My involvement recently took a turn I never could have expected, however.

Recent IACP Leadership History

Earlier this year, the CEO hired last year by the IACP resigned – which was actually a good thing, as she was not who she said she was and definitely was not capable of doing what she said she could do.  Having been through this unfortunate experience, however, the organization is understandably being careful about choosing a replacement. Read More >>

Resources for Children During a Divorce

Today there are many helpful resources for children during a divorce. This was not always the case. In years past, when divorce was not as common, children of divorcing parents often found themselves isolated and unable to connect with others who could understand. The stigma of their parents’ divorce was often humiliating, especially since most of their friends’ parents were still together. Read More >>

Taking Care of Yourself

Divorcing parents have a lot to juggle, between emotional turmoil, financial stress, and significant physical changes such as a move.

When children are in the picture, it becomes even more challenging to navigate the shifting relational scene. While it is unrealistic to hope children will emerge completely unscathed from a divorce, considerate parents should want to spare their children as much heartache, confusion, and guilt as possible. Read More >>