Laid-off..modify support payments


            Posted on Mar 2,2014       

            Laid-off ex wants to modify support payments

Q.   I was divorced in Massachusetts in 2005.  In 2008, my company transferred me to Texas. In 2010 my ex-wife and our children moved to California. 

I got laid off in January. While I'm seeking new employment, I'd like to reduce or end my child support since I'm also paying all the expenses for each of our three children's college education. And I'd like to stop paying alimony.

Where can I, or where must I file my complaint for modification? And, what is the likelihood of success on each issue?

B.B. (Texas)

A.   Getting laid off was a material change in circumstances. So you have a right to ask a court to reduce or end both your alimony and child support obligations. 

In 1998 Massachusetts adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which establishes a national set of rules for interstate enforcement and modification of child support and alimony orders. 

Massachusetts has continuing and exclusive jurisdiction over the order requiring you to pay alimony. So you have to file a complaint in Massachusetts to modify or end your alimony obligation.

If California's child support laws were similar to Massachusetts, an argument could be made that the child support should be modified there, where it would be more convenient than in Massachusetts.  But in California, child support ends when the child attains age 18 unless the child is still in high school, and then it extends only to age 19.  In Massachusetts, if a child is in college, child support would end on the sooner of the child getting a bachelor's degree or attaining age 23.  Because Texas would not have personal jurisdiction over your ex-wife, you cannot file your modification case there.

Since your divorce, Massachusetts enacted an alimony reform act that may give you additional grounds to modify your alimony depending on the number of years you were married, your agreed the amount of alimony you pay.  Even if none of those new roads help you, it still seems probable that you should get a reduction, if not an end to your alimony payments.

 Also, since your divorce, the Massachusetts child support guidelines have changed.  Now judges have discretion to consider ending or sharply reducing child support if you are paying the college expenses.  So, as a practical matter, because you ought to avoid litigating in two places at the same time, you should file your complaint in Massachusetts to seek modification of alimony and child support.