Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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Family Law Attorney

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

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Massachusetts attempts to collect child support payments

Readers in Massachusetts may be shocked to learn about the high amount owed in child support across our nation. In fact, the amount is over $100 billion nationally, according to one report. This amount reflects child support owed to custodial parents and to taxpayers.

According to a recent report, $53 billion is owed to nationwide to the government. That is 49 percent of the total of what is owed in back child support in Massachusetts and elsewhere. This amount also reflects the percentage of what is owed that is in the form of repayment for aid to custodial parents in the form of public assistance. Many single parents are forced onto public assistance rolls when non-custodial parents fail to pay their court-ordered child support payments.

Across the United States, 82 percent of custodial parents are mothers. For these women, child support payments make up an average of 45 percent of their monthly income. When they don't receive this money, they often have little choice but to take advantage of programs such as public assistance and food stamps.

In an effort to improve collection efforts, many states have turned to actions such as wage garnishment and interception of tax refunds. These actions have led to approximately 70 percent of all families getting some of their child support money each month. States have been hampered in their collection efforts by the inability of non-custodial parents to earn a living in this stagnant economy.

For those noncustodial Massachusetts parents suffering from a financial crisis, courts can usually entertain a petition to modify a child support order based upon proof of a substantial change in circumstances. For those owed back due child support, there are a myriad of potential enforcement measures to help, including the possibility of jail sentences for those noncustodial parents who willfully fail to meet their child support obligations.

Source:, "Over $100 billion in unpaid child support," Steve Hargreaves, Nov. 5, 2012

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