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Massachusetts Essex Division Family Child Support Agreement Contempt Lawyers Attorneys

Posted in Child Support on 7th January 2011

Massachusetts Essex Division Family Child Support Agreement Contempt Lawyers Attorneys

JOAN M. QUINN  vs. SEAN J. QUINN.
We take the plaintiff’s name as it appears on the complaint.
APPEALS COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS
December 14, 1999, Argued
April 20, 2000, Decided

PORADA, J. On October 2, 1996, the plaintiff filed in the Probate and Family Court an amended complaint for contempt alleging that the defendant had failed to comply with an order of the court to pay child support in the sum of $ 350 weekly for the parties’ minor children.

The defendant filed an answer to the complaint in which he alleged as one of his defenses the plaintiff’s agreement of April 9, 1993, to accept the lesser sum of $ 275 weekly for child support. The Probate Court judge dismissed the contempt complaint based on his belief that the plaintiff’s agreement constituted a bar to her complaint for contempt. The judge also reduced prospectively the order of child support from $ 350 weekly to $ 322.50, based on the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines (guidelines).  Plaintiff appealed dismissal of her contempt complaint from Essex Division of the Probate and Family Court Massachusetts.), as barred by plaintiff’s agreement to accept less child support and downward modification of child support amount.

Whether an agreement between the parties relating to child support made subsequent to the entry of their divorce judgment and without court approval continued to constitute a defense to a contempt complaint?
Whether the judge erred in modifying the child support order?

The Court finds that an agreement between the parents relating to child support, which was fair and reasonable and free from fraud, and which was entered into after the entry of their divorce judgment, could constitute a defense to a complaint for contempt.  In light of the passage of G. L. c. 119A, § 13(a), this action raises the issue whether an agreement between the parties relating to child support made subsequent to the entry of their divorce judgment and without court approval continues to constitute a defense to a complaint for contempt. This Court concludes it cannot for the reasons discussed below.  Under G. L. c. 119A, § 13(a), an action to enforce a child support order takes on the semblance of an action on a judgment. In an action on a judgment, an agreement to accept less money than due, absent proof of new consideration, does not constitute a defense to the action.  The same principle should apply to a civil proceeding to enforce a child support order. Of greater import, however, is the fact that G. L. c. 119A, § 13(a), no longer permits a judge to moot or reduce arrearages for child support except for any period during which there is pending a complaint for modification. Thus, the ground on which we based our decision in part in Gridley v. Beausoleil, 16 Mass. App. Ct. at 1007-1008, is no longer valid.

Therefore this Court concludes that the plaintiff’s agreement to accept less money than provided by the court order

Child Support Contempt in Rhode Island (RI) By a Family and Divorce Law Attorney

Posted in Child Support on 29th November 2010

Child Support Contempt in Rhode Island (RI) By a Family and Divorce Law Attorney

Child support contempt in Rhode Island (RI)

If a person violates a Rhode Island Family Court order by not paying child support, the parent with physical custody may file a motion to hold that person in contempt for failure to pay child support.  A person accused of not paying child support has a right to a hearing. The obligor parent has the right to proper notice under the Rhode Island Family Court Rules.

If the person owed child support (the parent with physical placement / custody) is on AFDC Benefits (welfare) than payment may be owed to the state of Rhode Island. In that event, the motion may be initiated by the State of Rhode Island, Child Support Enforcement rather than the father or mother with physical custody of the minor child.

A Child Support contempt proceeding could be part of a Rhode Island divorce, child custody, Complaint for separate Maintenance, dcyf petition, child visitation, paternity or other type of Family Court legal action. If there is a potential for incarceration and a person cannot afford a Rhode Island Family Law lawyer / attorney then the Family Court must insure that the person has an attorney representing him or her. The Judge usually has a list of Court Appointed attorneys who are paid for by the state. Otherwise, the Court will appoint  one of the lawyers from Rhode Island Legal Services to represent the person.

There is often an opportunity to settle the matter prior to any hearing in which a judge may find a person in willful contempt. A settlement typically may include any one of the following or a combination of the following or something different:  the obligor agreeing to remain current, paying a lump sum, a payment plan, staying current in addition to an arrearage order, etc.

In some situations, the parent with physical custody or Child Support enforcement is unwilling to settle the matter and insists on a hearing.

Technical contempt

If a person is found in technical contempt after a hearing, it means that the person has not complied with the child support order. However, the Court believes that the person had a legitimate reason or excuse for failure to pay, such as loss of job (being fired, laid off), decrease in income, disability, injured at work, unable to work, medical problems, or a myriad of other excuses or explanations. The judge also may not accept any of the above stated excuses as justification for failure to pay.

A person found to be in technical contempt will not be sentenced to the Adult Correctional Institution (aci) (jail)! However, the person may be ordered to find employment, raise a lump sum, stay current and / or make payments on the arrearage, pay attorneys fees, make certain lump sum payments, obtain a second job etc.

Most Judges have little patience for people who do not support their children. If the person has an excuse for nonpayment it better be a good one or they