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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Can wage garnishment be court-ordered on back-owed child support?

You would do just about anything for your child. This is true of parents living separately and parents who live together with their child. The difference for separated parents is that they have to balance raising their child from separate households. This can be tricky for the primary custodial parent, especially when they do not receive the court-ordered child support from the other parent.

In situations where child support is in arrears, many wonder how they will ever collect for their child's living expenses as to be paid by the child's other parent. The truth is, it's possible to petition the Massachusetts family court to step in to collect this back-owed child support. One such decision by the court may be to garnish the other parent's wages in order to get back-owed child support paid and up-to-date. Wage garnishment is a process in which the portion of a person's earnings is required to be withheld by an employer for the payment of a debt, like child support.

The withheld income is then ultimately transferred to the child and the parent in charge of administering child support finances. Garnishment law allows for roughly 50%-60% of a parents' disposable income to be garnished for payment of late child support. Disposable income is determined by a variety of factors, but it is important to understand that disposable income is not the same as total income. Percentage of garnishment also depends on whether or not the parent is supporting any other children, among other factors.

At the end of the day, you just want your child to receive the child support they are entitled to. Court-ordered child support is not optional child support. It is an important part of a child's growth and development. It is possible to collect child support from a parent who's payments are late.

Source:, "Wage Garnishment FAQ," Accessed Jan. 23, 2017

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