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Trade School Massachusetts

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Question:
My divorce agreement from 1997 stipulates that support will continue until the age of 18, unless enrolled full-time in school. When she began beauty school in June, I resumed paying the support. I was charged with contempt of the original order because I did not file a modification, and we went to court over it. What the judge said was that I was not in contempt, because I did have that agreement, but I did owe the support because she is not self-supportive. She also indicated that I should have filed a modification at 18. Does this make sense? I have an agreement that tells me how I need to behave, and it says nothing about filing anything. She also ruled that my wages be garnished even though I have not missed a payment since 1997, stating that she saw no harm in it. My lawyer objected, to which he was quickly silenced.

She also made it clear that being in school was irrelevant, so I basically have no choice but to pay until 21. If I request a termination or modification of CS based on lack of schooling, I'm just asking for more trouble. So it seems... Does this make sense? What do the words in my original agreement mean? No one seems to be concerned that we had a legal document that was filed with probate court more than 5 years ago that spelled out all of this.




Answer:
I've paid CS to age 21 for a child attending school, so I understand some of your situation, but not the MA law. It sounds like the judge ruled the CS could have ended at age 18, when your daughter was no longer enrolled in school, but since you didn't file a modification to terminate the support at that point, the CS continues. The action an NCP is required to take at the conclusion of the stipulated support term varies from state to state, and is also impacted by whether the payments go directly to the CP or through the state. It sounds like you paid the CP directly, without state involvement, so the burden to stop the CS payments from accruing fell onto you. (If the state had been involved they might have done it for you.)

What is odd is the way the MA law is written to say the child must be "enrolled". My state requires the student to attend school (college or post secondary trade school) at least 1/2 time, get at least a "C" average, and continually notify the NCP of their education progress and plans. Breaks for summer vacation are not considered, but breaks in enrollment are cause to shut off CS accruals. You need to understand what MA law says about termination of CS.

At this point, I'd stay in close contact with your daughter, and as soon as she no longer plans to "enroll" beyond the current level of schooling, file a motion to modify BEFORE the current enrollment period terminates detailing the last day of her enrollment. If the garnishment is now paid through the state that can be an advantage. If the CS is paid through the state, inquire about how they can help you when you anticipate the child will no longer qualify. Also check your state statutes on what steps you need to take to terminate CS when the child no longer qualifies.

FYI - the law in my state allows for the NCP to file an affidavit with the Child Support Program swearing all CS has been paid. The CS Accounting Unit checks their records, and files a certification and full Satisfaction of Judgment with the Clerks of the Court on behalf of the NCP. No motions, no hearing, just an affidavit which you can create using one of the legal templates in MS Word. That's why you need to check what the proper procedure is in MA for your circumstance. I paid a $50 consulting fee to an attorney to help me understand the law and what to do and then did the rest on my own.





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