Q. During our marriage, my Ex-wife and I lived in Massachusetts. As our three daughters left for college, they each chose out of state schools in the south. I took a job in Florida and my ex moved to Georgia to be close to our children who are now in Tennessee, Louisiana and Georgia respectively.
Our youngest graduated college last May and I stopped paying support at that time. I did not get a court order permitting me to stop but I believe our divorce agreement permits me to just stop because she had graduated college. Our youngest is 22 and living with my Ex in Georgia.
Last week I was served with a complaint for contempt which my Ex filed in Massachusetts for failing to pay child support for the last year with a request that I pay back child support with interest, all my Ex’s legal fees and appear at a hearing in late June. First of all, I am not sure why Massachusetts would make an order now when no one has lived there in over four years. But more important, why would I have to pay until our daughter is 23 if she graduated college?
I had a very high child support order and once I was done paying for our children, I changed jobs and have a much lower income now knowing I only had to worry about myself. I am much happier now and no longer have to travel the world on a weekly basis. But, I cannot afford my prior child support obligation if reinstated.
A. The short answer is, under Massachusetts law, you don’t have to pay support once your youngest graduated college regardless of the fact she and your Ex continue to live together. A child reaching age twenty-three is the limit to a child support obligation in Massachusetts if that child still has not graduated college and, lets face it, some kids thrive in the party life college offers and take their time putting on that cap and gown. The only exception is if a child is disabled and support is ordered in connection with a guardianship case once the child has attained age 23.
You should hire a lawyer in Massachusetts and have him/her file a limited appearance for the purpose of contesting jurisdiction and dismissing the action. No one is in Massachusetts any longer so the proper thing for your Ex to do is register the order in Florida – the only state in this equation with personal jurisdiction over you – and look to enforce it there. Your lawyer should ask this court to order your Ex to pay your fees for having to jump through these hoops.
If your Ex wants to pursue this complaint in Florida, good luck to her. Florida is obligated to apply Massachusetts law to the issue and as far as Massachusetts is concerned, you have met your obligation.