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MA Family Law: Modifying Age of Emancipation of an Out-of-State Child Support Order

As mediators and lawyers, we are often confronted with out-of-state divorce judgments.  Since Massachusetts has the most generous emancipation statute in the country, those out-of-state judgments often provide that support ends long before a child’s 23rd birthday, depending on the state.  Steve and Mary Ellen Freddo had four children and were divorced in Florida.  Following the divorce, they both moved to Massachusetts. Mr. Freddo brought a complaint for modification in Massachusetts when all of the children were over eighteen.  Mr. Freddo’s argument was (1) that under Florida law, children are emancipated at age eighteen, with exceptions not relevant here, and the age of emancipation is a non-modifiable matter and (2) under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), if an obligation is non-modifiable in the “issuing state” (Florida, in this case), then the “responding state” (Massachusetts) cannot modify it.  The Probate and Family Court found Mr. Freddo’s complaint frivolous and dismissed it, relying on the “post-eighteen” provisions of G.L. c.208 s.28.  In this significant case of first impression, the Appeals Court reversed, holding that Massachusetts could not modify the age of emancipation where it could not have been modified in Florida.  Acknowledging the inconsistency between G.L. c.208 s.28 and UIFSA, the Appeals Court found that the latter takes priority; both the “full faith and credit purpose” of UIFSA and the fact that it was enacted after G.L. c.208 compel this conclusion.  Freddo v. Freddo, 83 Mass.App.Ct 353 (February 26, 2013)

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