Lawyers Have Heart 5K

This year, the team from Schmidt & Federico took part in the “Lawyers Have Heart 5K” road race in the Boston Seaport. This is an annual event, where local law firms, legal service providers and other professional companies and firms in Greater Boston come together to race and raise money to fight the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of Americans — heart disease and stroke.

Schmidt & Federico attorneys named Massachusetts Super Lawyers

Recently, six attorneys at Schmidt & Federico were included in the 2018 edition of the Massachusetts Super Lawyers magazine and website (  These attorneys will be featured in the New England Super Lawyers Magazine, which will appear as a supplement in the November 2018 issue of Boston Magazine. The selections for the list are made by the research team at Super Lawyers, based on a rigorous multi-phase selection process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, independent evaluation of candidates by the attorney-led research staff and a peer review of candidates by each practice area.

The following attorneys were recognized as 2018 Super Lawyers:

  • Mary H. Schmidt – Estate Planning and Probate
  • Phyllis E. Federico – Family Law
  • Sanford Durland III – Family Law
  • William  H. Schmidt – Estate Planning and Probate
  • Jennifer Sevigney Durand – Family Law
  • Glenn M. Schley – Family Law (as a “Rising Star”)

Additionally, Mary H. Schmidt was also honored as one of thy “Top 50 Lawyers in Massachusetts,” as one of a “top rated estate planning and probate court attorney.”

Impact of the 2018 Tax Law on Divorces

Recently, Congress passed tax reform (known as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”) which, in part, eliminated the alimony deduction for divorces entered after December 31, 2018.  Alimony payments have historically been considered income to the recipient/payee and have been deductible by the payor if certain requirements are met (i.e., the payment must be in cash or by check/money order; the payment must be made under a divorce or separation instrument; the instrument must not designate the payment as being non-includable and/or non-deductible; the ex-spouses cannot be members of the same household; the payment cannot continue after the death of the recipient/payee; and the payment cannot be designated as child support).  See I.R.S. Code §§ 61(a)(8); 62(a)(10); 71 & 215.

Since ex-spouses often have differing income levels, with the payor typically earning more and paying taxes at a higher rate, the deductibility of alimony often allows the ex-spouses to have a resulting, greater cash flow. In turn, this makes it easier for the ex-spouses to pay for the increased expenses associated with two households.

For divorces after December 31, 2018, alimony will no longer be deductible by the payor and will no longer be considered taxable income to the recipient/payee.  But, for those divorced prior to that date, alimony will continue to be deductible (including subsequent modifications of alimony, unless expressly stated otherwise).

The elimination of the alimony deduction could encourage some to seek a divorce before the expiration date of December 31, 2018 (and some would say there is a certain irony that a decision by a Republican-led Congress, the party which has for years espoused “family values,” might actually end up promoting divorces).  It will also likely make future divorce negotiations more contentious and complicated given the key role the deduction played in helping to maximize the available cash flow to ex-spouses. Finally, the elimination of the deduction raises conflicts with the statutory scheme for determining divorce-based support in Massachusetts. For example, the Alimony Reform Act, namely M.G.L. ch. 208 §53(b), suggests that, in part, a range of 30%-35% of the differences in the ex-spouses’ gross incomes is an appropriate amount of alimony. Although not specifically stated in the Reform Act, this range was based on historical, percentage levels of deductible alimony. Additionally, the recently revised Child Support Guidelines (2017) also seem to encourage the use of a higher amount of “unallocated support” (i.e., a combination of alimony and child support) which is considered deductible alimony instead of nondeductible child support. See Guidelines (2017), § II(A)(2) (relationship to alimony payments).  See also Delong vs. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2013-70 (2013).

(Note, this blog represents the opinions of Sandy Durland, partner at Schmidt & Federico, P.C.)

Senate Bill Retains Alimony Tax Deduction

In a previous post, we noted how the House recently passed a version of a tax reform bill which, if enacted into law, would eliminate the tax deduction for alimony payments in divorces and separation agreements executed after December 31, 2017. On November 9, 2017, however, the Senate responded by filing its own version of a tax reform bill. The Senate bill rejected the House’s proposal to eliminate the alimony tax deduction and would leave the current law regarding the deductibility of alimony payments intact. Since there are widespread consequences flowing from the potential loss in the deductibility for alimony warrants, the tax reform debate in Congress warrants continued and close monitoring.

Proposed House tax bill would eliminate alimony tax deduction

On November 2, 2017, the House Ways and Means Committee issued H.R.1, called the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” a bill over 400 pages long, which contains provisions that will likely have a profound impact on family law practitioners, as it would eliminate the tax deductions relating to payments that some people are required to make to their ex-spouses. It would also eliminate the inclusion of such payments as income to the recipient ex-spouse. These payments, typically codified in a divorce or separation agreement and incorporated into a divorce judgment, are different than child support, are typically paid at a rate of 30%-35% of gross income and are referred to as either alimony or spousal support. While it remains to be seen what the Senate bill will provide, if the proposed legislation passes the House as written, it would apply to all divorce judgments entered after December 31, 2017. More importantly, since the avoidance or reduction of taxes is often a key element in a divorce negotiation for the higher income and/or wealthier ex-spouse, this legislation could make settlement discussions much more contentious and difficult. For example, for a person in the 33% federal tax bracket, the proposed House bill would increase the cost of their alimony or spousal support payments by nearly 50%.  So, while the goal of the House bill may have been to generally simplify income taxes, this proposed legislation could likely complicate divorces and may actually increase litigation.

Congratulations to S&F Super Lawyers!

We are pleased to announce that, this year, the following attorneys in our firm were named to the Massachusetts “Super Lawyers” list, an honor limited to approximately 5% of the lawyers state-wide:

Mary H Schmidt, estate planning & probate (an honoree since 2004);
• Phyllis Federico, family law (an honoree since 2004);
Sandy Durland, family law (an honoree since 2006);
• Bill Schmidt, estate planning & probate (an honoree since 2005); and
Jennifer Sevigney Durand, family law (an honoree since 2015).