Enforcing a Child Support Order in Massachusetts

The state of Massachusetts recognizes that each parent has the duty and obligation to support his or her child. To that end, a parent who is delinquent on child support payments may face certain legal ramifications for a failure to pay court-ordered child support.

Contempt of Court

Filing a complaint for contempt with the court that issued the child support order is a good method of ensuring child support payments. If successful, the court will hold the delinquent ex in contempt of court and take action to enforce payment.

After it receives the complaint, the court will schedule a hearing. At the hearing, the parent accused of being in arrears on child support payments will have the burden of proof to show the court that he or she is not delinquent. If he or she is unable to do so, the court will find the defendant in contempt of court. If the nonpaying parent fails to show up at the hearing, he or she may be subject to a capias warrant, meaning a law enforcement official can arrest the other parent in order to bring him or her to the contempt hearing.

One consequence of being found in contempt of court is potential jail time. In addition, if the parent is unemployed but not disabled, the judge will issue an order for that parent to look for a job, participate in community service activities or a job training program. The court will require proof of participation of these activities. The court may also order the defendant to pay for child support already owed, either in one lump sum or in installments.

In addition, the court may order the other parent to pay attorney's fees and other costs associated with bringing the contempt claim to court.

Other Administrative Options

A number of potential license revocations are possible when a Massachusetts resident fails to pay child support. Professional licenses, such as the ability to practice medicine, law or any number of professional fields can be revoked to prevent the nonpaying parent from working. Recreational and driver's licenses may also be revoked. Those receiving a license revocation may have their name released publicly by the Department of Revenue.

The Massachusetts Child Support Enforcement Division also created the Payment Intercept Program, which takes money from pending insurance claim payments and public retirement boards and uses it to pay off existing child support debt. The Department of Revenue works with insurance companies and retirement boards in order to determine who has outstanding child support debt. The program is considered very successful, and over the years programs similar to PIP have been used for a variety of purposes, such as recovering public assistance benefits.

In some ways, PIP is based off of income withholding, which is a very common way to enforce child support payments if the ex-spouse is employed. Income withholding simply means taking child support payments out of a paycheck before the employee receives the check, and giving that money directly for child support.

Not Receiving Child Support Payments?

You have the right to receive payments to help pay for the food, clothing and shelter your children need. If you are facing delayed or delinquent child support payments contact a family law attorney in your area for further information on enforcement options.