Enforcing a Child Support Order in Massachusetts: What You Need to Know
Divorce, even when done amicably and by mutual agreement, is hard. Divorce, when one party contests court orders and refuses to follow them, is even harder. Sadly, this often has negative effects on the children of the former couple.
The disagreements that most directly impact children are over custody and financial support. If a parent is refusing to provide court-ordered financial support, a child can experience material deprivation, social embarrassment, and secondhand stress absorbed from the other parent, worried about money.
If you are faced with a parent who will not furnish court-ordered child support in Massachusetts, read on to learn what steps you can take to ensure your child is financially supported.
What to Do When You Cannot Talk Things Out
The best course of action if a child support payment is missed or incomplete is to talk to the other parent. In most cases, this can resolve the matter. By talking things out, you save time and money. Additionally, keeping communication open and not going to the “nuclear option” of a new court action will preserve the relationship with your co-parent for future challenges and shared experiences in your child or children’s lives.
If talking to your co-parent fails, do not allow your children’s wellbeing to suffer because one parent cannot or will not pay child support. The next step is to contact a skilled family law attorney. In general, there are two bodies which can provide relief in the case of child-support nonpayment: the courts and the Department of Revenue.
As always, you should comply, comply, comply with all other aspects of the divorce decision even if the other parent is not. This includes asset division and child custody. Withholding access to your child because the other party is withholding payment will most likely result in you being found in contempt of court or being investigated for parental abduction.
Recourse to the Courts
When the wronged parent petitions the court in cases of child-support nonpayment, the court can find the noncompliant parent in contempt of court with regard to the child support agreement. The judge can then declare that the non-paying parent’s wages will be garnished (called ‘income assignment’ or ‘wage assignment’ in Massachusetts) so that money moves directly from the paying parent’s employer to the recipient parent.
If the noncompliant parent does not appear in court, he or she can face arrest for failure to appear.
The Mighty Department of Revenue and What It Can Do for You
While the courts can order a portion of a noncompliant parent’s paycheck to be withheld, the Department of Revenue’s Child Support Enforcement office has even more substantial powers to make sure a parent produces back child support.
The DOR/CSE may:
- Levy a noncompliant parent’s bank account
- Charge interest and penalties
- Withhold even more of a paycheck, up to 25%
- Place a lien on real estate or other personal property
- Seize personal process
- Seize tax refunds
- Damage the noncompliant parent’s ability to get more credit
- And more
Attorneys Supporting You in Your Family Law Needs
If you are facing a former spouse who will not provide for your children as ordered by the court, you need experienced family law attorneys on your side. Call our office today to discuss your unique situation and learn how we can help.