One of the greatest sources of anxiety for parents involved in a divorce or paternity case is child support. Parents who expect to pay child support worry about whether they will be ordered to pay more than what they can afford. Parents who expect to receive child support worry about whether they will receive enough to maintain a household and pay the children’s expenses. Often it feels as though there’s not enough money to go around, and there’s a very good reason for that: unfortunately, the reality is that it costs far more to run two households than one.
Faced with that dilemma, the Courts in Massachusetts have recognized the need to put the interests of the children above all by minimizing the financial impact of the divorce or separation upon them. To that end, the Courts have implemented certain guidelines which apply in many cases to help ensure that children are adequately cared for by both parents in a divorce or paternity case.
In setting the amount of child support — whether or not the children were born to parents who were married — the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines take into account a number of factors, including the parents’ income, amount of time spent with the children, amount paid for child care and health insurance, and ages of the children. The Massachusetts Guidelines are also meant to take into consideration the need to protect parents with lower incomes, and the non-monetary contribution of both parents. In many cases, the Massachusetts Guidelines help provide more certainty to parents as to how much child support they should expect to either pay or to receive.
In some cases, parents have been divorced or separated for a period of time and circumstances change such that the amount of child support should be changed. The parent seeking the change – or modification – must file a new case by way of a Complaint for Modification. In other cases, the level of child support may be appropriate, but the parent obligated to pay falls behind in payments. The parent seeking to enforce the order or judgment must file a Complaint for Contempt.
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Attorney Rhonda S. Boulé
Q&A (see Rhonda’s profile on Avvo.com):
QUESTION: How long does child support take to recieve? So the judge granted child support to be paid weekly how long does it take to start receiving child support running out of money and husband won’t send me some money.
ANSWER: I suggest that you check the paperwork you received from the court,including the Order or Judgment and any other documents. There may be a provision that your husband is required to pay child support to you directly until such time as your DOR account has been set up and the DOR begins forwarding payments to you. If the DOR has been waiting forinformation or documentation from you, I would call to confirm that it has been received, and to ask when you should expect to begin receiving payments. You should also set up a login to the DOR website, which you can access at any time to check the payment history, including the amount of any past due support. It may take some patience to reach someone at the DOR to discuss your account, but it’s worth waiting on hold for a few minutes in order to gain some clarity.
QUESTION: Can I file a complaint for modification on an existing child custody order by myself or do I need a lawyer to do it?
My ex stopped following the order where he was to have my daughter wed at 7:30 am to friday 330 pm, 6 months after the judgement was finalized. She was 2.5 at the time. He did not see her at all for 18 months and only started seeing her again about 3 months ago. I supervised the visits for 2months and now he takes her on his own on sun for about 3 hours. We agreed to no overnights as he doesn’t have a place for her to sleep. He now wants to take her on a 4 day trip, Christmas day to Sat or sunday to see his parents which is a 10 hour drive out of state. I told him I didn’t think that was a good idea but technically wed-fri is his parenting time in the order. He told me he doesn’t care what I think and if I deny him, he will file for contempt. I believe the trip isn’t in her best interest.
I’d be interested to know whether you have joint legal custody, or whether you alone have legal and physical custody, with visitation to your ex. While nothing is black-and-white in the world of Family Law, if you have sole legal custody, you may have more of a say right now as to what is and is not in your daughter’s best interests.
In any event, in your complaint for modification (which you can file yourself, if need be), you should allege that there has been a serious change in circumstances (the legal terms would be material and substantial change); describe the change briefly, stressing no contact for 18 months; and ask for sole custody, with visitation to your ex pursuant to a schedule that makes the most sense for your daughter. Based upon the information you provided (including the existence of potential safety issues), regardless of what happens this Christmas, it’s important that you bring this issue to the Court (complaint for modification) in order to obtain a custody award and parenting schedule that is in your daughter’s best interests at this time. I encourage you not to be intimidated by the thought of filing yourself if you must; you should’t let the fact that you don’t have a lawyer stop you. It sounds as though you are truly looking out for your daughter’s interests, and will be able to convey this to the Court. Good luck.
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