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Massachusetts court issues ruling on child support obligations

Whether married or divorced, one of a parent's most essential responsibilities is providing financial support for his or her children. This month, the Massachusetts Appeals Court lent support to that statement when it issued a ruling in an unusual child support case involving a man who attempted to negotiate away his support obligations.

The case involved an immigrant couple from Nigeria who were having trouble conceiving a child. They had been married for nearly a decade when the wife suggested that they try in vitro fertilization. Her husband hesitated, but according to court documents, the woman pressured him into agreeing to the procedure, saying that if he did not support it, she would no longer aid his attempt to become a citizen of the United States.

In exchange, the husband bargained for a release from any support obligations he might have for the children. The couple then put their agreement into writing. In 2003, the woman gave birth to twin girls using in vitro fertilization. But three years later she filed a legal action to request child support from her husband despite her promises that she would not do so.

The matter went to family court in 2009, where the judge ruled in favor of the wife. The decision reached by the Appeals Court this month affirmed that ruling. In part, the court ruled that a parent could not contractually eliminate his child support obligations. Massachusetts law makes the presumption that a married person is the parent of any child born into that marriage. Since the man assented to his wife's in vitro fertilization procedure, he was deemed the father of the children and legally responsible for their support.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Court says father owes support, despite deal," Peter Schworm, Mar. 7, 2012.

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