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Divorce Mediation Blog

“Thanks for your service, son. Now, about that child support…” Bobblis v. Costa

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Levine Dispute Resolution - Divorce Mediation

I’ve drafted a lot of separation agreements over the years. I have also been accused, on occasion, of trying to anticipate some pretty unlikely events. But I never considered the possibility that a child support payor might try to stop paying because his kid earned a college scholarship, let alone one that committed him to military service after graduation!

Really?

Instead of saying “congratulations, and thank you, son”, the father demanded retroactive termination of child support to the start of his son’s ROTC training, junior year, citing the “military enlistment” emancipation provision of the parties’ divorce agreement. And to think, Claire Booth Luce had never heard of the Bobblis case when she coined “No good deed goes unpunished”.

The Probate and Family Court dispatched the father’s demand with careful legal analysis. The Massachusetts Appeals Court did the same, crediting Judge Lisa Roberts’ good work, and distinguishing military enlistment (and full time attendance at West Point or other military academy), from attending college on a military-provided scholarship. The appellate panel upheld the trial judge’s ruling that the child remained unemancipated, and child support unchanged.

The father represented himself at the trial level, but he had counsel on the appeal. Presumably, his lawyer advanced irony-free arguments that she believed would survive the giggle test. The Appeals Court accorded the appellant and his counsel the dignity of a reasoned, published decision rather than the “you’ve got to be kidding me” reply a/k/a summary disposition.

They even declined to award appellate fees for advancing a frivolous argument.



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