Getting help with child support from DOR

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By
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
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The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has a Child Support Enforcement Division (DOR/CSE). The DOR/CSE gets child support orders, helps parents change child support orders, and makes sure that parents pay their child support orders. You can apply to DOR/CSE for help.

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What can DOR/CSE help me with?

DOR/CSE can:

  • work with parents to get a child support order;
  • work with the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to get a child support order;
  • help find the other parent;
  • figure out who the father of a child is – “paternity”;
  • go to court to get child support orders;
  • collect child support and send it to the parent the child lives with;
  • review child support orders for possible changes;
  • go to court to ask to change child support orders;
  • make sure parents pay the child support by:
    • increasing the amount of child support taken from the parent’s paycheck by up to 25%;
    • charging interest on past-due child support;
    • seizing a parent’s property;
    • taking a parent’s tax refund;
    • levying a parent's bank account;
    • taking a parent's driver's license or professional license;
    • reporting overdue child support to credit reporting agencies; and
    • taking a parent to court.
       

DOR/CSE does not: 

  • deal with custody, parenting time, or visitation;
  • hire private investigators to see if a parent is hiding money;
  • make parents obey alimony orders unless it is  part of a child support order; 
  • make parents pay child support by bringing criminal charges, except in very special situations.

Important

Even if DOR/CSE brings a child support case for you in court, they are not your lawyer. DOR/CSE does not represent either parent in court. Their job is to get the right amount of child support for your child.

How does DOR/CSE get a child support order for me?

When you apply to the DOR/CSE for child support, they file the forms at court for you. Filing the forms starts the court case.

If you do not know where the other parent is or who the father is, DOR/CSE needs to know before they can get child support. They will try to find the father and they will file a paternity case to find out who your child’s father is. 

DOR/CSE must let the other parent know when they start a case. This is called “serving.”

DOR/CSE sets up the court date.

DOR/CSE tells you and the other parent the date you both need to be at the court hearing. In most cases, the hearing will be online. The court will send you the link for the online hearing. If you are unable to do an online hearing, tell the DOR attorney as soon as possible.

A DOR/CSE lawyer will be at the court hearing. The DOR/CSE lawyer asks the judge to make an order for child support.

Even though the DOR/CSE files the child support case for you, you still must fill out paperwork. The DOR/CSE gives you the forms. Make sure to fill out all the forms and return them to the DOR/CSE.

How do I ask for help from DOR?

DOR/CSE has a form called “Child Support Intake Form & Application for Full Child Support Services."

This form includes all the information DOR/CSE needs. It also includes answers to frequently asked questions.

You can also fill out this form online at the CSE Case Manager website.

What if I want to keep my address secret from the other parent?

If you do not feel safe because of the other parent, tell the DOR. Tell them that you do not want the other parent to know where you live.
 

How does DOR/CSE make sure a parent pays child support?

The parent who is required to pay child support is called a payor.

Making sure that parents obey child support orders is called “enforcement.” DOR/CSE can take many actions, including going to court, if a parent is not following a child support order. This includes:

Increasing the amount held from the payor's paycheck by 25%

When the court makes a child support order, the judge also orders a “wage assignment.”  The wage assignment orders the paying parent’s employer to take the child support out of the parent’s wages and send it to DOR/CSE.  DOR/CSE then sends the child support to the parent who is supposed to get it. DOR/CSE can increase the wage assignment by 25% if a payor is not paying.

Charging interest and penalties

DOR/CSE can charge interest and penalties on past due child support over $500.  A payor may be able to get an exemption in certain situations, including hardship, being on public assistance, or if your child lives with you. Learn more on DOR's website.

Placing a lien on real estate or personal property

A lien means that if the payor sells their property, money from the sale will go to paying the overdue child support. 

Seizing property

DOR/CSE can take away property such as 

  • Financial assets,
  • Car,
  • Vacation home,
  • Boat,
  • Lottery winnings,
  • Funds from bank accounts – that is called “levying” your bank account,
  • Business or personal property.  

Intercepting payments

DOR/CSE can also take (“ intercept”)

  • State and federal income tax refunds,
  • Insurance claims,
  • Unemployment compensation payments,
  • Worker’s compensation payments,
  • Public pension payments.

Levying bank accounts

DOR/CSE can “levy” your bank account. This means that the bank must take the child support that you owe out of your account and send it to the DOR/CSE. See DOR enforcement actions.

Suspending licenses

  • Business license,
  • Trade license,
  • Professional license,
  • motor vehicle registration
  • Driver’s license. See DOR enforcement actions.

Filing a Complaint for Contempt

The DOR/CSE can file a Complaint for Contempt against a payor if they do not pay child support. A judge will decide how much money the payor owes at a court hearing. See What if DOR/CSE files a  complaint for contempt.

Reporting child support debt to credit reporting agencies

If you owe child support, and you want to challenge steps DOR is taking to collect, see What if I owe child support and DOR is involved.

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