At the time of my divorce, I lived in Middlesex county and so did my husband. Two years after the divorce I was in a terrible accident and became completely disabled. My ex agreed our two daughters and I could move to upstate New Hampshire to live with my mom. At the time of the divorce, I was the primary parent and the sole wage earner, my husband was struggling with alcoholism. I was an associate at a big firm earning a significant income. Both my husband and I represented ourselves. I always felt the judge hated me and believed I was taking advantage of my husband with the “deal” I got. But I was earning all the money and had all the responsibility so I didn’t see it that way.
Anyway, my ex has been sober for the last 18 months and has a steady job. He comes up to visit our girls about six times each year for long weekends. He now lives in Plymouth county. I have the settlement from my accident and SSDI but am young and the settlement won’t last forever, especially if I have to pay for everything.
I am considering seeking child support. But I’m afraid of the judge, who clearly hated me last time. Now that my ex lives in Plymouth county, can I file a modification there to get child support?
Before you panic and try to change counties (there is a process but it isn’t guaranteed), you should look up your docket number on the Masscourts website. Middlesex County was recently divided into north and south districts. Half of the judges are now in Lowell and the other half remain in Cambridge. It may be, depending on where you lived at the time of your divorce, that you no longer have the same judge. In that case, you should file your modification complaint as soon as possible and serve the summons on your ex as soon as you receive it. You should ask that the child support be modified retroactively to the date you serve the summons.
If you find that you have the same judge and you truly are unwilling to go back before him/her, you can file for a change in venue but you would have to allege there is a hardship of some sort that necessitates the change. Further, right now hearings are still being held virtually so I don’t know how you will meet this standard.
Last, while you didn’t ask, I assume your children receive SSDI benefits along with yours. You will need to disclose those benefits in connection with the modification you are seeking. If you know what your ex is earning, run some child support guidelines calculators to see if it is even worth opening this can of worms.