The parents of a child may get separated for various reasons. Often, as a result of this, the child is left with just one parent to provide everything he/she needs. However, this is often too much for just one person to handle, as a result, child support laws exist which specify amounts to be paid by one parent to the other (child support) to raise the child. Child support payments are important in maintaining living standards for children of separated parents. The establishment of a child support order enforces a legal obligation on both parents to be involved in the upbringing of the child, rather than leaving the burden to just one of them.
Child Support Process
The Department of Revenue (DOR) in Massachusetts provides child support services to parents who require such. Custodial parents who wish to apply for child support can fill out an application at https://ecse.cse.state.ma.us/ecse2/Home/appPart1.aspx. In filling out this application, the custodial parents will be required to provide details of the child and the noncustodial parent. This includes identifying information such as full name, social security number, home address, telephone number, employer’s address, etc. The information supplied in this application may help shorten the case by making it easier to locate the noncustodial parent. This is important as a child support case cannot be established without notifying the parent being sued for child support. When the noncustodial parent has been located, a court summons is issued, which serves as an official notice of the child support case. The summons is usually delivered by a deputy sheriff who then signs off to verify that the summons has indeed been delivered and received by the parent.
If the parents were married when the child was born, the man is assumed to be the legal father of the child. However, if the parents were not married, the alleged father, along with the child’s mother can fill a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form. A court may have to order genetic testing if the fatherhood of the child is disputed. This usually involves taking swab samples from the child and parents and performing DNA tests to determine the chances of fatherhood. The test is highly accurate, and the results given are the basis for the court order of paternity.
The case can then proceed to a hearing to determine how much should be paid monthly as child support.
Both parents of the child can also request a modification of their child support order. Modifications are generally requested when there has been considerable change in the financial status of either parent. For details on how to go about changing an existing child support order, visit https://www.mass.gov/how-to/request-a-change-to-your-child-support-court-order.
How Do You Receive Child Support?
The DOR receives the funds from the noncustodial parent and transfers them to the custodial parent. Custodial parents can choose to receive their child support payments as direct deposits to their bank accounts, or on a state-issued debit card. Both payment methods do not have any service fees associated with them, however, DOR recommends direct deposit for the custodial parents. With direct deposit, the child support payment is electronically paid into a registered bank account and can be withdrawn or kept till a later date.
Parents may also go for the Massachusetts Debit Card. In this case, the funds will be loaded into the corresponding Massachusetts Debit Card account. The card can be used to withdraw money from ATMs, make purchases at sales outlets, etc. Regular ATM and transaction charges may apply for users of the Massachusetts Debit Card.
Custodial parents receiving child support can sign up for either direct deposit or the debit card via the online case manager at https://ecse.cse.state.ma.us/ECSE/Login/login.asp.
Maximum Amount Receivable as Child Support
The decision on child support payments in Massachusetts is based on the income of both parents. The state has child support guidelines to determine just how much should be paid under various circumstances. The number of children, the cost of their care, health insurance, etc. are also considered when determining child support. Since some parents may fail to report all or most of their income, the court may impute income values for them and decide accordingly, based on those values. The court may also attribute a higher income to a parent if such parent is purposely unemployed or underemployed. If the parent is found to be voluntarily doing a job that pays less than they could be earning, the court assumes a higher income for them and decides based on that.
When computing child support, the maximum combined available annual gross income of the parents is pegged at $250000. For amounts above this, the discretion of the court is applied. For more information, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/child-support-guidelines.
Enforcement of Child Support
Custodial parents can file a Complaint for Contempt if the noncustodial parent refuses to pay their child support. The Complaint for Contempt form can be found at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/probate-and-family-court-complaint-for-contempt-cjd-103 and should be filled following the instructions outlined on https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/ug/instructionsforcomplaintforcontempt.pdf. When the case is filed, a judge reviews what both parents have to say and then decides on how much is owed as child support. The court will usually add certain interests and fees to the support which the defaulting parent must pay. In some cases, the parent who has refused to pay may be sentenced to jail. For more details on this, visit https://www.mass.gov/how-to/request-overdue-child-support-payments.
The DOR also has a Payment Intercept Program to recover past-due child support. This arrangement requires the compliance of insurance companies. The Payment Intercept Program identifies insurance claims that the noncustodial parent is entitled to and deducts their child support debts from those payouts. Details on the program are available at https://www.mass.gov/payment-intercept-program.