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Child support enforcement options in Massachusetts

When a child is subject to a custody agreement or order, he or she may spend much of the time in the household of one parent. In such arrangements, that parent with whom the child primarily lives is considered the ‘custodial parent’ of the child, and the other parent, who may have visitation rights with the child is considered the ‘noncustodial parent.’ Noncustodial parents are often required to pay child support to help maintain their children’s livelihoods, as they do not provide day-to-day care for them due to the custodial situation.

When noncustodial parents stay current on their support payments children generally have sufficient financial support to meet their needs. However, when noncustodial parents fall behind on their payments, their children can suffer and want for certain basic requirements. As such, the state of Massachusetts may take certain enforcement actions to ensure that children receive the monetary support they need.

Enforcement efforts can include sending noncustodial parents notices of their obligations to pay child support. If the notices go unheeded, then noncustodial parents can see their wages garnished so that the sums removed from their paychecks are provided to their children. When a child support deficiency is large, then the garnishment may be increased by 25 percent to begin fulfilling the support deficit.

The state may use other financial devices to compel parents to pay child support. It may draw from a parent’s tax returns to pay off child support or it may place a lien on a parent’s property for the same ends. Parents may see certain rights restricted, such as the right to get a passport, if their child support obligations are not up-to-date.

When custodial parents struggle to have their children’s noncustodial parents stay current on child support, the situation can be more than frustrating. It can put children in a precarious financial position. Many custodial parents seek the support of family law attorneys to help them enforce their children’s support orders.