Do changed circumstances mean payments can stop?

Law gavel on a stack of American money.Q: When the court first ordered me to pay child support my children lived with their mom and now they are spending more and more time with me, and I cover most expenses…can I stop paying child support?

A: No.

Child support, as well as alimony, are court ordered payments. To that end, the termination of your obligation to pay support must also be an order of the Court.  The Court’s role in a divorce action, as well as a child support action, is to resolve issues that could not be resolved between the parties. The Court also sets rules on how matters should be dealt with moving forward. Such rules include payments for child support and alimony. However, what most people do not understand is that judgments as well as temporary orders may not come with automatic expiration dates. While it is correct that the obligation to pay child support ends once a child reaches the age of emancipation, the age of emancipation varies depending on the particular circumstances of the child. If you are incorrect in your assumption that you child has become emancipated, you could be held in contempt for a failure to pay child support.

Good faith is a practice that is needed for your probate matter to be resolved efficiently and justly. Continuing to pay your court ordered obligations in good faith, until the Court orders you otherwise is a practice that should involve no hesitation. Any decision that diverts from a court order, even if in good faith, could be construed as a willful disobedience of a court order, which could result in a finding of contempt and the imposition of sanctions. The filing of a complaint for contempt has no statute of limitations – meaning there is no time limit as to when a contempt can be filed against you. If you violate a court order, a complaint for contempt can be filed at any point in time thereafter, and the sanctions against you are not limited to only missed payments may also include interest and the payment of the other party’s attorney fees to litigate this matter.

Actions in the probate and family court involve a lot of tension – both emotional and financial. While taking one route may seem appropriate, unless the Court directed that route, you must not take it. The Court serves as your map towards resolving all divorce and child support issues; therefore respecting the Court, its orders, and seeking the direction of the Court will only lead to a fair and impartial outcome.

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