This post is part of a 5-part series. If you want to read the other posts in this series (yes, yes you do), just click here.
Mistake No. 4 — Assuming they can change the terms of the Judgment informally (through a conversation, text message or email.)
Except for the occasional temporary modification of a weekly parenting schedule -- you generally cannot verbally change a Judgment, at least not in a way that is enforceable.
For instance, the Court will not enforce a verbal agreement to modify any child support obligation, even if both parties acknowledge such a verbal agreement. Take a moment to read that last sentence again and really take it in, because -- yes -- it does apply to you if you're paying or receiving child support.
Soooo many people get burned by making mistake no. 4, especially in the child support context.
The situation usually arises like this. Parent A pays child support to Parent B. Parent A -- for a perfectly legitimate reason, such as a temporary layoff -- asks Parent B to reduce the weekly child support obligation and Parent B says okay (or something that, at the time, sounded to Parent A like "okay.")
Time passes, some other dispute arises between the parties, the issue of child support comes up again and, when it does, Parent A and Parent B no longer see eye-to-eye on exactly what that verbal agreement was (or even that there was an agreement.)
Parent A is now at risk of having to defend a Complaint for Contempt and repay what the Court will characterize as past-due support. Avoid this scenario by obtaining the Court's approval of the changes you want to make to the Judgment. This does not mean an expensive and drawn-out court battle, procedures exist that allow you to easily modify a Judgment by agreement.
But, please, whatever you do, don't rely on the agreement that you think you have with your ex, even if it's in writing.
If you have a question about your Judgment or any other family law issue, then we should talk. Click here to gain direct access to my calendar to schedule an initial complimentary call with me. Take care until then.
P.S. This post is part of a 5-part series. If you want to read the other posts in this series (yes, yes you do), just click here.
Then you should access Janie's free course, where she will show you the what, when, how and how much of divorce, custody and support cases in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts. Plus, you'll have access to Janie anytime you have questions.