Whether you are married, separated, divorced or were never married to your partner, your child or children are legally entitled to the financial support of both of their parents. Child support refers to the ongoing payments a parent provides – typically the non-custodial parent – to the other custodial parent or guardian responsible for the care and well-being of their child.

In an ideal world, a Child Support Order will dictate how much your ex pays in child support, the payment schedule and the duration. The judge will order an income assignment, which demands the paying parent’s employer take wages out of their paycheck to send to the Department of Revenue (DOR), who then send those wages to you for your child’s needs.

But, life can get complicated. There are countless reasons why a parent may fall behind on their payments or willfully disobey. If your ex has failed to comply with the terms of your order, you have the right to pursue legal action and advocate for your child. In Massachusetts, there are two different avenues you can take to enforce child support:

1. Contact the DOR Child Support Enforcement Division (DOR/CSE)

The DOR/CSE is a division of government that can assist you with a number of child support services – including collecting child support payments and enforcing child support orders on your behalf. The DOR/CSE does not usually have to go to court to enforce the terms of your order, but you may have to wait some time before the division can get to your case. While it’s possible to handle contacting the DOR/CSE on your own, it can be challenging to understand how the law applies to your specific situation. In that case, it may be beneficial to seek legal guidance.

If your ex isn’t complying with their income assignment, there are several actions the
DOR/CSE can take to enforce your child support order, such as:

  • Increasing the amount withheld from their paycheck
  • Charging interest on past-due payments
  • Seizing their property
  • Collecting their tax refund
  • Levying their bank account
  • Suspending their driver’s license
  • Taking them to court

2. File a Complaint of Contempt

If your ex is able to pay child support but isn’t obeying the order, they are considered ‟in contempt”. You can file a complaint of contempt directly with the court. In a complaint of contempt hearing, a judge will decide whether the paying parent was able to obey their child support order. If found in contempt, they will be ordered to do at least one of the following:

  • Serve a jail sentence
  • Continue making payments and pay what is past-due
  • Look for a job or participate in a job training program
  • Serve community service
  • Pay for your attorney and court fees

While the idea of seeking help for the enforcement of your child support order can seem complicated or even intimidating, it’s important to remember what is in the best interests of your child and their quality of life. Speaking with a representative of the DOR/CSE is one solution, but not the only solution.