Saturday, 2:15 PM
Father's estate must pay child support, SJC says
By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
The state’s highest court ruled today that a court can order child support payments from an unmarried father even after his death.
Justice John M. Greaney
The Supreme Judicial Court has previously ruled that existing child support orders remain in force after a father dies. Today, the court expanded that decision, ruling that a father’s estate is subject to child support orders when none existed prior to death.
“A child's needs do not end with the death of a parent who has been providing support,’’ Justice John M. Greaney wrote for the court, which issued a unanimous ruling. “What remains constant, in the circumstances of either the presence or absence of an actual order of support, is the obligation of a parent to provide support and a child's continued need for that support.’’
The court’s ruling comes in a case where the father appears to have been fully involved in his daughter’s life without having been ordered to do so by a Probate and Family Court judge. The man, who was identified in court papers only by the pseudonym JMM, died in a 2006 car crash, the SJC said.
The SJC said the man provided financial support to his daughter, valued at $19,795 in 2005, which included weekly child support, private school tuition, and other means. The court also said the father and daughter were close, and that the daughter, who is now 15 years old, had a positive relationship with her two half-sisters.
But the financial support ended with the father’s death, and a legal guardian went into Probate and Family Court demanding child support, which the estate will now have to pay, the court said. The SJC said any child support must be offset by the $992 monthly Social Security benefits she now gets and the $200,000 she got in life insurance benefits.
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