November 2009 Newsletter



In October 1996, Joan Quinn filed a complaint for contempt, alleging her former husband, Sean Quinn, failed to pay the $350.00 weekly court ordered child support.  Sean filed an answer stating that his former wife agreed to accept $275.00 per week as part of an April 9, 1993 "agreement."  Although the "agreement" was never presented or approved by the Court, Sean felt it was a defense to the contempt.  The trial judge modified the child support, and did not enter a judgment of contempt.
Joan filed an appeal, and the Massachusetts Appeals Court disagreed with Sean.  The post divorce "agreement" predated the amendment to M.G.L. c. 9A, section 13(a), which does not permit a judge to reduce arrearages for child support, except when there is a pending complaint for modification.  Stating "parents may not bargain away the rights of their children to support from either of them," the Court found that an agreement to accept less money than due was not a defense to the contempt.  The trial court's original judgment was reversed, and the action remanded to the Probate Court for the purposes of establishing arrearages, or addressing the issue anew at such a hearing, unless Sean filed a complaint for modification.
The moral of this case is that parties can make agreements.  However, to avoid a future filing of contempt, any post-divorce changes/agreements should be accomplished by filing a complaint for modification.  These agreements must be presented and approved by the Court to determine that the terms of such a new agreement, if related to child support, are in the best interests of the children.
Despite being on good terms with an ex-spouse, with assurances that he/she agrees to the changes, unless and until the Court gives its approval, the existing Court order/judgment controls.


The most festive time of year is here.  It is a time for family gatherings, gift exchanges, and of course, delicious food.  Last year, the office decided to donate the cost of cards and postage to the Abington Food Pantry instead of sending holiday cards and greetings to our families, clients, and colleagues.  This year we have decided to once again make a donation to the Abington Food Pantry.  The Food Pantry serves the Abington community, providing food and toiletry items for those in need.  We hope our donation will help others who need assistance at this time.  If you wish to support this worthy organization, or others on the South Shore, please click here for information.  In the alternative, there are donation cans located in the office.
Paula, Rachel, and I wish you and your families Happy Holidays, and hope the New Year brings health and prosperity to everyone. 
Issue: 12

scales of justice

In This Issue
Side Agreements to Court Orders: Are They Enforceable?
Happy Holidays!
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Alimony:  Does It Ever End?

If anyone has a topic that would be of general interest, please do not hesitate to contact the office and let us know what items would be of general interest to the readers of this newsletter.
Susan C. Ryan, Esq.
Law Office of Susan Castleton Ryan, PC
(781) 982-8850

This newsletter is designed to keep you up-to-date with changes in the law.  For help with these or any other legal issues, please call our firm today.
The information in this newsletter is intended solely for your information .  It does not constitute legal advice, and it should not be relied on without a discussion of your specific situation with an attorney.