SSDI and Child Support

In today’s internet age, when many people can use the web to run the child support guidelines, counsel may seem obsolete.  Let me assure you—in Massachusetts, when SSDI dependency benefits are involved, it gets tricky. 

Under Rosenberg v. Merida, if a payor parent receives SSDI and the children receive the derivative dependency benefits, the dependency benefit must be added to the payor parent’s income for child support worksheet purposes.  Then look at the figure the child support worksheet calculates.  If the dependency benefit is greater than the child support calculation, the payor parent does not need to pay any additional child support.

If the dependency benefit is less than the child support calculation, subtract the dependency benefit from the child support calculation.  The remainder is the amount the payor parent must pay for child support each week.   

Sexual Assault of a Minor

One of the horrors that comes to the surface in family law is the sexual assault of children.  More times than I would like, I’ve had a parent call me in distress, concerned that the child is being sexually assaulted at the other parent’s home.  Here are some pointers for how to deal with such a traumatic and sensitive situation:

1) Call the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and ask them to conduct an investigation.  They will conduct a SAIN interview, which is a 1-time interview with the child.  The purpose of a SAIN interview is to keep the child from being interviewed multiple times.

2) Immediately seek legal counsel to file an emergency motion and temporarily suspend visitation with the allegedly violent parent until the court is able to reach a judgment.

3) Take the minor child to the pediatrician, who will conduct an evaluation.  The pediatrician is a mandatory reporter who will call the Department of Children and Families (DCF) if DCF has not been already notified.  The pediatrician’s records might also come in handy at trial.

4) Find a therapist or psychologist who specializes in these issues and enroll your child in therapy.  Therapy is doubly beneficial; the child will be able to work out some of the terrible things that happened to him/her, and a professional will monitor his/her mental state.

5) Although I would not advise this for the vast majority of cases, on occasion with young children, it is appropriate to take photographs of the injury.  For example, I saw a case where a 3-year old was being violently hit on his groin and upper thighs.  In that case, the photograph of his legs (which were taken while he was sleeping) were sufficient to win an emergency motion barring the allegedly violent parent from seeing the child until the court reached a conclusion.


Jurisdiction Basics

There are courts in all states and all federal districts, and you may have wondered how attorneys know which court to use for each case.  In fact, there are strict rules identifying each court’s jurisdiction.

Almost all of the time, divorces occur in state court.  To determine if Massachusetts will hear your divorce case, consider the following:

1) If the grounds for divorce (i.e. irretrievable breakdown or desertion) occurred in Massachusetts and at least one of the parties currently resides in Massachusetts, the divorce can be filed in Massachusetts.

2) If the ground for divorce occurred outside Massachusetts, the divorce can be filed in Massachusetts if at least one party lived in the state for at least one year before filing.

If you don’t fit into either of these scenarios, consult with an attorney on where to file your divorce.  If you do fit one of these scenarios, you will next need to figure which county’s courthouse to use, since each county in Massachusetts has a Probate and Family Court.  To determine venue, consider the following:

1) If a party still resides in the county where the couple last resided as husband and wife, the divorce shall be filed in that county.

2) If neither party still resides in the county where they last resided as husband and wife, the divorce shall be filed in either county in which a party currently resides.