If you do not pay your child support, the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division (DOR/CSE) can seize your bank account to pay for the child support you owe. Seizing your bank account to pay a debt is called “levying.”
Before the DOR/CSE can levy your bank account it must send you a Notice of Child Support Delinquency. The notice tells you
- the amount you owe and
- that you have 30 days
- to pay the full amount, or
- send in the form that asks DOR/CSE /CSE to review its decision that you owe back child support. This is an Administrative Review.
If you send in a written request for an Administrative Review, the DOR/CSE can only start to levy your bank account after they send you the results of the review.
If you do not pay the money or you do not ask DOR/CSE to review its decision the DOR/CSE can levy your accounts.
Can the DOR/CSE freeze all of the money in my bank accounts?
The DOR/CSE cannot freeze money in your bank account if it comes from:
- Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC),
- Transitional Aid to Needy Families (TANF),
- Emergency Assistance for Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or
- State Veterans' benefits.
And, the DOR/CSE cannot freeze money that does not belong to you.
If you are a court-appointed guardian for someone and have money in your account that belongs to that person, the DOR/CSE cannot take those funds.
If the DOR/CSE freezes this kind of money, you can send in a bank levy response form. Use this form to tell DOR/CSE to “unfreeze” money they should not have frozen.
How long is the bank levy in effect?
The bank levy is in effect for 60 days or until the back child support is paid, which ever comes first.
The DOR/CSE sends a Notice of Levy to the bank. The Notice tells the bank to “freeze” money in your account for 21 days. After 21 days, the bank must send the child support you owe to DOR/CSE.
Does DOR/CSE let me know that they levied my bank account?
After they levy your bank account, DOR/CSE sends you a Bank Levy Response Form. At the top of the Form it says, “Your bank account has been levied by the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue (DOR/CSE) to collect past-due child support.”
They also send you a copy of the Notice of Levy that they sent to the bank. See the Bank Levy section in the DOR/CSE child support enforcement brochure
Can I stop DOR/CSE from seizing my bank account?
You can stop DOR/CSE from seizing your bank account if:
- The amount of past-due support in the Notice of Levy is more than you owe.
- Some or all of the money in your account comes from benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC), Transitional Aid to Needy Families (TANF), or Emergency Aid for Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC).
- The money does not belong to you. For example, if you are keeping money for someone else in your account because you are their legal guardian.
- The levy causes you a severe hardship.
If your life is incredibly difficult because the DOR/CSE freezes your money, you can check the box on the bank levy response form that says, “The levy of my account causes me a severe hardship for the reasons stated below.”
Some reasons that the bank levy might cause a severe hardship for you are that the levy:
- keeps you homeless, or makes homeless,
- keeps you from buying food,
- makes your home’s water or electricity get shut off,
- keeps you from going to work or looking for work,
- makes you lose your job,
- keeps you from getting medical help for yourself or your children,
- keeps you from getting education services for your child with special needs,
- keeps you from buying basic clothing,
- keeps you from paying your employees,
- makes you lose your business or go into bankruptcy, or
- keeps you in an abusive relationship.
How can I stop DOR/CSE from seizing my bank account?
Fill out the within 15 days from the date on the Notice of Levy.
On the Bank Levy Response Form check your reasons for stopping the levy.
You need to include documentation for any reason you have checked.
When DOR/CSE gets your Bank Levy Response Form they review the decision to levy your accounts.
After DOR/CSE reviews the decision to levy your account, they send you a letter. They may decide the levy was wrong. If it was wrong, DOR/CSE will undo the levy.
What can I do if DOR/CSE decides it was right to levy my bank account and I disagree?
DOR/CSE may decide they were right to levy your account. If you think that DOR/CSE’s decision to levy your bank account was illegal, you can ask a court to review what DOR/CSE did.
Asking a court decide if the bank levy is legal is asking for “judicial review.”
Judicial review is a complicated process. Talk to a lawyer to find out about judicial review of DOR/CSE’s decision to seize your bank account
To get a judicial review, you must file a Complaint for Judicial Review within 45 days of the date of the DOR/CSE’s written decision.
DOR/CSE’s decision on hardship claims is final. You cannot get the court to review hardship decisions.
But, there is another option. It is a “Complaint for Equitable Relief.” It is a very difficult and complex court process. Talk to a lawyer to find out about equitable relief.
Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp Last updated June 2013