By Chris Kramer
Like divorce laws, child support laws vary from state to state. No matter where you live, though, matters of child custody and child support are likely to play a large role in your divorce if you and your spouse are parents when you decide to split.
Boston.com reports on the unfortunate case of a teenage girl whose parents had divorced and whose father died in a 2006 car accident. Massachusetts law already dictated that, should a parent with child support obligations die, support must be continued from the parent's estate after his or her death, but this case involved a further complication.
Apparently, though the father had been supporting his daughter financially, no formal court order existed directing him how or whether to do so.
It seems that because no court had ever ordered him to pay the nearly $20,000 he shelled out annually to cover the cost of her private school tuition, weekly child support and other various expenses, the payments ceased after he died.
According to the mother's divorce lawyer, she went through the court after the death of her ex-husband in an attempt to have child support payments continued, this time with a legal guarantee that they'd keep coming. Sources indicate that concerns about paying for college influenced her decision to seek a court order outlining child support.
And, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Judicial Court evidently ruled in the mother's favor.
Their decision means that a deceased parent's estate can be used to cover child support obligations, even if those obligations did not legally exist until after the parent died. The logic behind the decision is that neither a child's needs nor a parent's obligation to meet those needs ends when a parent dies, regardless of whether or not a court ruling exists to dictate the terms of meeting those needs.
Because new decisions like this one can have serious impact on divorce laws in your state and because such decisions are handed down fairly often by judicial bodies, you may want to consult with a divorce lawyer during your divorce process.