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I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

Low-income parents face child support issues

Paying child support can be difficult for some fathers in Massachusetts. With the average child support award approaching up to 35 percent of a person's income, those who make a small amount each month can find it hard to pay for other expenses such as the cost of rent or heat. In addition, in some cases, the non-custodial paying father has another family that he is trying to support as well.

The choice of whether to pay for basic expenses instead of court-ordered child support is a difficult one for many Massachusetts non-custodial parents, most often fathers. When they do not pay the child support obligation, they may face penalties such as jail time or wage garnishment. If wage garnishment is ordered, the parent could find that they are being garnished up to 65 percent of their income, the legal limit under federal rules for debt collection.

According to one report, there are 2.5 million non-custodial fathers who are living below the poverty level. These are people earning less than $6,000 per year. Some observers believe that states should take more factors into consideration when determining child support payments for these types of low-income fathers. One suggestion is that they be given leeway to negotiate other ways to assist with the parenting of their children rather than paying support through cash payments.

For many facing low income and high child support obligations, the choice of which bill to pay is a challenge each month. No parent wishes to see their child suffer because they did not pay, but with the potential for homelessness, some fathers are choosing just that, non-payment. Many believe they have no other option, although courts will consider modifying existing child support orders if the non-custodial parent can document a substantial change in circumstances.

Source: thecalifornian.com, "Child support tug of war/ Con," Gheni Platenburg, July 7, 2012

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