Servicemembers on active duty and veterans may be parents with child support orders enforced by the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR). It is important for parents to understand how military service can affect their child support cases so that they can work with DOR to ensure that child support remains paid in full and on time.
Active Duty Servicemembers with Child Support Orders
Servicemembers, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, who are called to active duty, should contact DOR to provide information about their activation.
Contact by phone: (800) 332-2733 (617) 660-1234 (callers from Charlestown, Chelsea, East Boston, Everett and Revere)
Contact by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newly activated servicemembers who have been paying child support by income withholding should contact DOR as soon as possible after they are called to active duty. DOR can issue an income withholding order to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) so that the child support will be deducted from the servicemember’s military pay.
There may be some delay before the income withholding at DFAS goes into effect. To avoid any accrual of arrears during this time, servicemembers must make payments on their own using DOR’s payment coupons until child support is being deducted from their military pay.
Interest and Penalties
DOR assesses interest and penalties on the last day of any month in which past-due support is owed and the total monthly child support obligation was not paid. In some cases, because of limits in the amount that DFAS can withhold from a servicemember’s pay, the amount of the withholding may be insufficient to satisfy the total monthly amount due. If you are paying child support by income withholding, but the amount withheld is less than the total monthly amount due, you should contact DOR to find out if you are eligible for an exemption from interest and penalty charges.
Military activation may mean a sizeable reduction in monthly income. The change in income may justify a change in the amount of the child support order. Under Massachusetts law, only a court can modify a child support order. DOR can assist you in asking the court for a modification and in obtaining the forms and instructions needed to request a modification of the child support order. You should remember, however, that until the court modifies the order, you are responsible for paying the current court order amount on time and in full. DOR has a legal obligation to continue to use all available enforcement remedies to collect any past-due support that accrues.
If you are ordered to provide health insurance coverage for your children, your call to military duty means your existing insurance coverage with your civilian employer will end. However, you may enroll your children in the military health care coverage TRICARE. You must notify DOR that you will no longer be maintaining your existing health insurance plan and, if needed, request assistance in enrolling your children in the military’s TRICARE coverage.
Authorization for Release of Information
DOR’s policy prevents discussion about a servicemember’s child support case with anyone other than the servicemember or the other parent in the case without written permission to do so. Servicemembers may want to designate someone else to speak with DOR on their behalf. To do so, you must provide a completed Authorization for Release of Information, available on DOR’s web site at http://www.mass.gov/dor/child-support/. Once DOR has the form on file, the designated individual will be authorized to speak with DOR personnel about your child support case.
Veterans who are collecting veteran’s benefits from the federal government or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and have a child support obligation should contact DOR to discuss their child support cases. While some federal and state veteran’s benefits are not subject to income withholding, veterans who receive these benefits can enter into voluntary payment agreements to pay their child support obligations. By entering into a voluntary payment agreement, you may be able to avoid certain enforcement actions to collect past-due support. Veterans may also be eligible for an exemption from interest and penalty charges based on receipt of certain veteran’s benefits. If you have a current support obligation and are a disabled veteran or your earning capacity has changed since your return from active duty, DOR can assist you in asking the court for a modification of your child support order.