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Do you have to tell DTA anything about your child's other parent?

Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2017

You have to assign (turn over) to the state any rights you have to child support for any child for whom you are applying for or receiving assistance. There is no exception to the assignment requirement. You have to sign the assignment form even if you do have information about the absent parent and even if you have good cause for not cooperating with child support enforcement.

Unless you have good cause (see below), you also have to cooperate with (help) the Child Support Enforcement Unit of the Department of Revenue (DOR) to get child support from any parent who is not living with the child, prove he is the father (establish paternity) and get a support order. This includes going to court if there is a court proceeding. You can be sanctioned if you do not cooperate. If you are sanctioned, DTA will remove you from the grant and will reduce your grant by your share of the grant or 25% of the payment standard for your family size, whichever is larger. 106 C.M.R. § 203.700. See Being excluded from the assistance unit for more details about the consequences of sanctions. See Part 8 for information about how to appeal a sanction.

DTA or DOR will ask you for specific information about any parent who is not living with the child. If you do not have specific information, you will have to provide all the information you have and a sworn statement documenting your efforts to get the information. You should not be sanctioned if you have given all the identifying information you have. 106 C.M.R. § 203.700; 830 C.M.R. § 18.18A.1.

You have good cause for not providing child support information or otherwise cooperating with child support enforcement if you are afraid that doing so will cause you or your child any physical or emotional harm or if you got pregnant by rape or incest. You can verify good cause with statements from social services agencies or from people who know your situation. 106 C.M.R. §§ 203.745-203.760. DOR may try to seek support from a parent even if you are not required to cooperate. Tell DTA and DOR if pursuing child support may harm you or your child, and check with an advocate if DOR insists on pursuing support.

If you have been sanctioned for not cooperating and want to remove the sanction, tell DTA you want to cooperate and sign DTA’s form saying you will cooperate. DTA should remove the sanction within 73 days or as soon as DOR tells DTA you have cooperated (whichever is earlier). 106 C.M.R. § 203.770; F.O. Memo 2001-22 (April 25, 2001).

The support rules apply to mothers as well as fathers. A mother who does not live with the child can also be ordered to pay child support. Non-parent caretaker relatives must also meet child support cooperation rules for at least one of the child’s parents.

Advocacy Reminders:

  • If you cannot attend an appointment with DOR or go to court, call the DOR worker right away and ask that the appointment or court date be rescheduled.
  • DTA may say you have not cooperated or have committed fraud because it thinks you gave inconsistent information about your child’s other parent. DTA Operations Memo 2013-17 (May 1, 2013). Consult an advocate if you need help.
  • DTA may tell you to sign a Mother's Affidavit to collect the information DOR needs to get an order for genetic testing to establish paternity. You do not have to sign the Mother's Affidavit. It is DOR's job, not DTA's job, to establish paternity. DTA cannot sanction you for not signing. F.O. Memo 2003-25 (Oct. 3, 2003) and F.O. Memo 2004-13 (Mar. 19, 2004).
  • Some two-parent families may get a notice telling them they have to go to the Department of Revenue (DOR) to establish paternity. Families who do not comply may be sanctioned. F.O. Memo 2009-47 (Aug. 21, 2009). Since the second parent had to show paternity to receive TAFDC, there should be no need to establish paternity. And there may be no legal authority to sanction two-parent families because their benefits are not paid for with federal funds. Consult an advocate if this is a problem for you.
  • You do not have to assign child support for a child who receives SSI.
  • If the support that is paid is more than the monthly TAFDC grant plus $50 for two months, the DTA should terminate the TAFDC and reassign the current support to the family. The Department of Revenue should send current support payments to the family. You will need to set up a payment method with DOR— debit card or direct deposit.
  • It may be illegal for DTA to remove you from the grant for noncooperation and in some cases DTA may be reducing the grant for noncooperation by more than the law allows. Consult an advocate.
  • A child born to a married couple – including a same-sex married couple – is the child of both members of the couple. DTA Transitions, July 2013, p. 5.
     

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