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What Are Your Options If Your Ex Isn't Paying Child Support?

Regardless of parents' marital status, parents are financially responsible for their kids, per Massachusetts law, and that at least until the child turns 18. In some cases, court orders for child support may last until the kid turns 21 or 23, depending on the financial support required for their education. Child support is meant to help cover the costs of a child's housing, clothes, food, health care, and more.

However, national studies have found that non-custodial parents owe billions of dollars in unpaid child support. A child support order is a legal obligation, and there are serious penalties if the non-custodial parent doesn't pay. If your ex-spouse or your ex isn't paying you the child support that was legally ordered, the law stands behind you, providing recourse for enforcing child support payments. Today's blog talks about what you can do to secure the financial support your child deserves.

Federal Law on Child Support Enforcement

If a parent willfully fails to pay child support that has been ordered by the court, they are subject to federal prosecution if:

  • Their child lives out of state,
  • A payment is past due for more than a year,
  • Or their missed payments exceed $5,000.

To violate this law is a criminal misdemeanor, so a convicted offender can face fines and up to 6 months in prison. If the unpaid child support exceeds $2,500, then the U.S. State Department can also deny or restrict that parent's passport to keep them from leaving the country.

Now if your ex skips town and tries to relocate to another state in order to avoid paying child support, the Social Security Administration, IRS, and other federal resources can be used to track down the parent's new job, after which that state can garnish child support payments from that parent's tax refunds.

If a parent gets out of the country, however, things get more difficult. There are over a dozen countries that the U.S. has treaties with that include terms for enforcing child support. Outside of those countries, there will be a lot more legal hoops to jump through, but with the help of a knowledgeable lawyer and some federal resources, it can be done.

How Can I Enforce a Child Support Order in Massachusetts?

You can file a Complaint for Contempt form in order to leverage the law and force your spouse to pay child support. This may require you to take him or her to court, depending on the situation. Once you do that, the court is authorized to take many different forms of action, through the Department of Revenue (DOR) Child Support Enforcement (CSE) division.

The CSE can:

One course of action they can take is to increase the amount withheld from the non-paying parent's income by 25 percent, take away their tax refunds, or seize their assets, the CSE collecting that money to ensure that it goes to you and your child, so the child can get what is rightfully deserved.

The CSE can also enforce a support order by:

  • Levying their bank account
  • Charging interest and penalties
  • Suspending their driver's license

If a parent has past due child support, their license can be suspended and nonrenewable until they've paid up. Through the Payment Intercept Program, the Department of Revenue can also take insurance claims from the paying parent in order to pay their overdue child support, the DOR and insurance companies making sure that children get the money owed them.

It is also possible to get a court order that requires an employer to take child support payments directly out of the delinquent parent's wages and send them directly to the parent who has custody. Whatever method the courts take, if your legal action is successful, the court can also order the parent to cover your attorney and legal fees for the case too.

What If a Non-Paying Parent Is Unemployed?

What options does the court have if there's no paycheck to garnish wages from? That parent can still be forced to pay as well as be forced to find employment, or else serve time in jail. Or they may be ordered to perform community service and/or complete a job training program and then secure a job.

What If the Non-Paying Parent Left Massachusetts?

If the non-paying ex has moved out of state, it is possible to take your Massachusetts child support order to that other state in order to start enforcement actions. Unfortunately, the process can take months to complete.

What If the Non-Paying Parent Has Past Due Payments, but the Child Has Aged Out of Support?

Even if the child is old enough that support payments are no longer required, if they are still owed support payments from earlier that have not yet been paid up, then the CSE can still withhold part of the parent's paycheck until the past-due payments have all been fulfilled.

A Child Support Attorney Can Ease & Speed Up the Process

While the government offers many resources to help custodial parents pursue the child support payments their kids are owed, working directly with CSE on your own may not be the fastest route to take, not by a long shot. If you get an attorney on the case, however, this can help the case get to court faster and produce faster successes. Remember, if the non-custodial parent has been unresponsive and failing to pay child support to the extent that you feel you have to go to court, then the court can hold your ex responsible to cover your legal and attorney fees.

It is vital to contact a child support attorney to help you through the process as soon as possible. Miller Law Group, P.C. has experienced Massachusetts child support attorneys who can answer all your questions and represent your case with maximum efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Call (888) 874-2142 today to review your options in a free consultation.

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