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Massachusetts Child Support Enforcement

Asking the Court to Enforce Your Child Support Order

A child support order is a legal obligation. If the non-custodial parent doesn't pay, he or she can be held in contempt and fined or sent to jail. Also, his or her license may be suspended (along with any professional license). A parent can also have criminal charges brought against them if nonpayment continues for an extended period of time.

You can ask the court to enforce a child support order, or you can ask the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division (DOR/CSE) for help.

Do I Have to Go Back to Court?

Sometimes you have to go back to court to enforce your child support order. If the other parent has disobeyed the child support order and not paid their child support, you can take them to court. The kind of case you file to enforce a child support order is called a Complaint for Contempt.

What DOR Can Do to Enforce a Support Order?

  • Collecting overdue child support
  • Levying your bank account
  • Charging interest and penalties
  • Increasing the amount withheld from your paycheck by 25%
  • Placing a lien on your real estate or personal property
  • Seizing your personal property
  • Suspending your license
  • Intercepting your tax refunds
  • Making it hard to get credit
  • Filing a Complaint for Contempt

Criminal Prosecution

If the court decides the non-custodial parent could pay some or all of the amount owed, the payer can be held in contempt. Penalties for contempt may include any of the enforcement methods listed here (like suspending a driver’s license), plus fines, jail time, and other penalties. Additionally, the non-paying party can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, and face jail or prison time.

Modifying an Order

If a parent is having problems making payments, he or she should contact the court immediately. The parent can always seek to modify their existing support order. This will require going back to court and explaining to the judge why you can’t make your payments. Only a judge can change the amount you owe under a support order. The court can only modify the order after 3 kinds of changes:

  • A parent’s income has changed
  • Certain expenses for taking care of your child have changed
  • A parent’s health insurance choices have changed

The following table highlights the main provisions of Massachusetts child support enforcement laws.

See also Child Support Enforcement FAQs, How Do I Locate a Parent for Child Support, Enforcement and Collection of Back Child Support.

Who is Responsible? Both Parents
Agencies Massachusetts Department of Revenue
Remedies Available
  • Withholding income from a parent's wages;
  • Placing liens on a parent's real or personal property;
  • Garnishing state and federal tax refunds;
  • Withhold child support from a paycheck or from unemployment benefits;
  • Garnish worker's compensation benefits;
  • Suspending driving, occupational, sporting and/or recreational licenses;
  • Credit bureau reports;
  • Bench warrants for arrest;
  • Passport Denial or Revocation;
  • File contempt of court actions, which could result in a jail sentence.
Interest on Missed Child Support Payments Interest and penalties for past-due child support over $500.

Federal Enforcement

If the non-custodial parent moves out of Virginia, the support order can still be enforced in any other U.S. state under the Uniform Federal Family Support Act. If you need help locating the other parent, the federal government has a Federal Parent Locator Service.

Other Resources

Child support enforcement laws are complicated. You may wish to contact a family law attorney in your area.

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