My Ex told me to stop paying her the child support. Is this legal?

Only a court of competent jurisdiction can vacate the child support order. If you fail to pay under the existing order you could be setting yourself up for a Contempt charge. If your ex no longer wishes to receive payments from you for the children, she will have to go to the Probate & Family court that issued the order and seek a new order terminating the child support obligations. She will have to give GOOD CAUSE why the court should absolve you totally of your support obligations. Unless she just won the PowerBall lottery and/or is independently wealthy, she will be hard pressed to explain why you should be exempted from the absolute duty to support your children. Another reason why the court might terminate your obligation is in the case of domestic violence.  In the past, where a woman or the children were in danger of retribution from paying spouse, she could claim good cause due to danger of physical harm if the paying spouse knew their whereabouts. Today, this is less likely because the court can arrange to have the payment made to the Department of Revenue for benefit of the children and the spouse need never have any contact with the wife or children.  This will depend on state laws.

Until such time that a court has terminated your child support obligation, I strongly advise you to continue making your payments. If she refuses to accept payments or fails to negotiate your checks, place the money in a trust or escrow account for the benefit of the children. If the contempt charges should later surface, you will have a very good defense and you will have the money to make the arrears payments.

father holding hands with child

The bottom line is: DO NOT STOP YOUR PAYMENTS UNTIL A COURT ORDER TERMINATES OR MODIFIES YOUR OBLIGATION. If you wife should actually take this matter before a judge, then you should retain counsel to assist you navigate this tricky situation.

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As part of divorce, I agreed to pay half of college costs for kids. However, last year I declared bankruptcy Am I at all protected?

Your legal remedy is go file a Complaint for Modification of the Divorce Agreement immediately. Only the court can determine if you are absolved of this legal/contractual responsibility due to the bankruptcy. 

However, you should know  that when filing a Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy petition, an automatic stay provided by Bankruptcy Code section 362(a) immediately goes into effect which prohibits all creditors’ attempts to pursue collection of a claim against the debtor or against property of the debtor’s bankruptcy estate unless excepted.

Section 362(b) of the Code provides for certain exceptions, including many family law matters and domestic support obligations. On the other hand, some family law obligations may also be considered priority claims under Section 507(a)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code, entitled to a priority in payment in bankruptcy, specifically, Bankruptcy Code Section 362(b)(2)(A)(ii) provides:

The automatic stay created by a bankruptcy filing bars the commencement or continuation of most legal proceedings, but it has no effect on a proceeding for the establishment or modification of an order for a Domestic Support Obligation such as child support. 

In other words, the Bankruptcy code allows a modification of the child support order; however this still leaves a question of whether the terms under the divorce agreement in also covered by this. Typically, if you filed and received a discharge in a Chapter 13 case, you may be able to discharge property settlement obligations. It is likely that an agreement to pay for college would be in the nature of support, rather than property settlement, so the likely answer to your question is “No.”   However, only a court of competent jurisdiction allow you to modify your obligation under the Divorce Agreement.

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