Q: My ex has played delay games for years. She hires and fires lawyers every few months (including during the divorce) and gets continuances. We were divorced in Illinois and I moved to Massachusetts. During the pandemic, our kids were here with me for spring break and my ex and I agreed they could stay because that made things easier for her — she didn’t want to oversee home schooling our kids and my current wife doesn’t work.
I filed to modify child support here because my ex didn’t agree that I could stop paying. She continues to say they need their home in Chicago. Meanwhile they have lived with me full time since March 2020, I pay all their expenses including private school for one and now college for the other.
My ex keeps showing up for hearings saying she needs a lawyer. Then she hires someone who requests more time to get to know the case. Then that person quits or she fires them. It doesn’t help that we have had three different judges, all of whom feel sorry for her and just give her a continuance. We are supposed to have a pre-trial conference in the end of July. Today I learned her lawyer is quitting and she is again asking to continue things so she can find a lawyer. Meanwhile I keep being told this is not an emergency so I can’t get a temporary order to stop paying support. What can I do?
A: This time the lawyer will have a harder time getting permission to withdraw because the pre-trial conference is so close. You can oppose the motion to withdraw if the withdrawal will result in a further continuance. The judge can deny the motion to withdraw and order the lawyer to stay in through the pre-trial conference. In that way you will at least get to check the pre-trial conference box and ask for trial dates.
Alternatively, you can agree to the lawyer withdrawing on the condition that child support is suspended pending trial on the merits. Try to convince the judge that this arrangement is a motivator for everyone. If support is suspended now, your ex will likely agree to keep dates on the calendar if she thinks she will be entitled to reinstatement of support even if at a reduced rate.
If you didn’t ask for retroactive elimination of child support in your complaint, file a motion to amend the compliant to seek a retroactive elimination of support. If she is not in a position to pay back what she has received since you filed, that is another reason for the judge to end it now. You can also offer to “escrow” your support payments so if she wins the money is there but if she loses, you don’t have to chase her to get your money back. While you are at it, ask the judge to order her to use the support she receives to pay a share of the educational expenses.
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