How to Collect Child Support With a Divorce Decree in Massachusetts

by Wayne Thomas
A parent has several methods available to attempt to collect on past due child support.

A parent has several methods available to attempt to collect on past due child support.

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Being the custodial parent of a child after a divorce is no easy task. Matters can become even more complicated if the noncustodial parent willfully refuses to pay court ordered child support. In Massachusetts, the Department of Revenue's Child Support Enforcement Division can be called upon to address these situations through wage garnishment and other methods. In addition, both the receiving parent and the DOR can petition the court for a contempt judgment, which can result in jail time.

Enforcement Methods

If the custodial parent does not get the full amount of child support due from the noncustodial parent on time, she can contact the Department of Revenue's Child Support Enforcement Division for assistance in collecting the past due support. The DOR has several methods available for going after arrears, starting with written notice to the delinquent parent. In addition, the DOR can institute wage withholding, a levy against the parent's bank account, interception of state tax refunds and requesting suspension of professional and driver's licenses.

Interest and Penalties

For any child support remaining past due, the DOR is authorized to impose a 1 percent penalty upon the delinquent parent. This figure represents both interest and penalties and is split 50/50 between the parent and DOR, respectively, upon repayment. If the parent with the arrears pays the total amount in full, the DOR may waive the interest and penalties at its discretion.

Contempt

In addition to or in lieu of other collection methods, the DOR or receiving parent can file a motion for contempt with the court to further encourage compliance with the support obligation. Because a child support determination is a court order, failure to pay may be considered a willful failure to comply with the judge's ruling. If the parent is found in contempt, he or she could face jail time until the support is paid. Further, the receiving parent is generally entitled to attorney fees incurred in the process.

Motions to Enforce

In order to enforce a support obligation through the court's contempt powers, the receiving parent or the DOR must fill out and file a motion indicating the facts related to the non-payment and request a hearing. The motion must be filed in the Probate Court where the initial support order was issued. In addition, to provide notice to the delinquent parent, he or she must be served with the motion and a summons to appear, generally accomplished by local sheriff. At the hearing, the receiving parent or the DOR will provide evidence showing the dates payment was due and not paid. The delinquent parent then has the burden of showing that he was unable to comply with the court order and the failure to pay was not willful.