1. What is DOR's authority to assess interest and penalty on past-due child support?
  2. What are the interest and penalty rates assessed on past-due support?
  3. If the interest rate decreased from 1% to 0.5% on July 1, 2010, does that mean that interest assessed before July 1, 2010 will be reduced?
  4. When does DOR charge interest and penalty?
  5. Will interest and penalty be charged in my case every month?
  6. Will I receive interest every month in which DOR charges interest?
  7. Does DOR charge interest and penalty on the total amount of past-due support that is owed or only on the amount not paid each month?
  8. Since DOR charges both interest and penalty, why don't I get any penalty that is collected in my case?
  9. The other parent in my case has not been making the required monthly payments, but DOR is not charging any interest and penalty. Why?
  10. How long will the other parent be exempt from interest and penalty charges?
  11. Will DOR charge interest and penalty if money is collected through an enforcement action, such as a bank levy or state tax refund intercept?
  12. The other parent is making regular payments and DOR is not assessing interest and penalty, but I am still owed past-due support. Will DOR still use enforcement actions to collect the past-due support if the other parent is paying regularly?
  13. The other parent told me that he or she is applying for a waiver of interest and penalty, but I don't want to waive the interest owed to me. Will I be required to waive the interest?

1. What is DOR's authority to assess interest and penalties on past-due child support?
DOR's interest and penalty regulation, 830 CMR 119A.6.1, gives DOR the authority to assess interest and penalties on past-due child support. The current version of the regulation took effect on July 1, 2010.

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2. What are the interest and penalty rates assessed on past-due support?
As of July 1, 2010, DOR assesses interest at a rate of 0.5% per month and penalty at a rate of 0.5% per month. Previously, DOR used a monthly interest rate of 1%. The monthly penalty rate has always been 0.5%. From January 1, 1999 until June 30, 2003, DOR calculated interest (at 1.0%) and penalty (at 0.5%) monthly but made a yearly assessment.

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3. If the interest rate decreased from 1% to 0.5% on July 1, 2010, does that mean that interest assessed before July 1, 2010 will be reduced?
No, the change in the interest rate applies from July, 2010 forward. It has no effect on interest charged prior to July 1, 2010.

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4. When does DOR charge interest and penalty?
In cases where DOR is providing full child support enforcement services, we charge interest and penalty on the last day of each month if the total past-due support owed is more than $500 and the other parent has not made the required minimum monthly payment. The minimum payment is explained in Question 5.

DOR does not charge interest and penalty in cases where the only service we provide is collecting the child support paid by income withholding because you have not applied for our full services or in cases where the child support order was issued by a court in a different state.

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5. Will interest and penalty be charged in my case every month?

DOR does not charge interest or penalty unless the other parent owes more than $500 on the last day of the month. If past-due support is more than $500, then we check to see whether the other parent made the required minimum monthly payment.

If your case has a current support order, the other parent must pay the total amount of current support due for that month to meet the minimum payment requirement.

Example: You have a current support order for the other parent to pay $100 per week. If there are four Fridays in the month, the other parent must pay $400 (4 x $100 per week) to prevent interest and penalty from being charged. If there are five Fridays, $500 must be paid.

If there is no current support order, but arrears are still owed, the other parent must pay the same amount as when there was a current support order unless the court has ordered a specific amount to be paid towards arrears, in which case the amount specified by the court must be paid.

Example: There is no current support order, but you are owed past-due support and the amount of the last current support order issued by the court was $200 per week. If there are four Fridays in the month, $800 must be paid for the other parent to meet the payment exclusion; if there are five Fridays, $1,000 must be paid.

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6. Will I receive interest every month in which DOR charges interest?
No. You will not receive any interest payments until the other parent pays all the past-due support owed in your case. All past-due support must be paid before payments are applied to interest. All past-due support and interest must be paid before any penalty - and penalty is always owed to the Commonwealth.

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7. Does DOR charge interest and penalty on the total amount of past-due support that is owed or only on the amount not paid each month?
Interest and penalty is charged on the total amount of past-due support owed on the last day of the month in each case. This includes any support that was due that month but not paid. We never charge interest on interest or penalty that was charged in prior months. We also never charge penalty on interest or penalty that was charged in prior months.

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8. Since DOR charges both interest and penalty, why don't I get any penalty that is collected in my case?

By law, penalty is always owed to the Commonwealth. However, the Commonwealth will not receive any payments toward penalty until all past-due support and interest are paid in your case.

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9. The other parent in my case has not been making the required monthly payments, but DOR is not charging any interest and penalty. Why?

There are several reasons why DOR might not be charging interest and penalty in your case:

  • DOR charges interest and penalty only in cases where we are providing full child support services. If the only service we are providing is to collect child support paid by income withholding, we cannot charge interest and penalty. If you want to receive full DOR services, you can complete and submit an application for services. Once we receive your application, we will begin assessing interest and penalty going forward; we will not assess interest and penalty for any period prior to your application for services.
  • Additionally, the interest and penalty rules apply only in cases where the order was issued by a Massachusetts court. If the order in your case was issued by another state or country, DOR cannot charge interest or penalty. If, however, the other state charges interest and notifies us of the amount, we will collect it.
  • Some parents who pay support may qualify for an exemption from interest and penalty charges. While DOR cannot tell you the exact reason for the exemption because of our confidentiality rules, the other parent may qualify for an exemption if he or she:
    • Receives SSI, TANF, EAEDC or state veterans' benefits or other needs-based cash benefits;
    • Is disabled and not financially able to meet the child support obligation. If the other parent receives SSDI, VA or other disability benefits, DOR must receive regular payments from these benefits but the payment is not enough to meet the required minimum monthly payment.
    • Lives with the minor child who is the subject of the court order and the court has terminated the current support obligation.
    • Is unemployed and is either involved in a jobs training or seek work program.
    • Is not working and DOR receives payments from the other parent's unemployment or workers' compensation benefits but the payments are not enough to meet the required minimum monthly payment.
    • Is hospitalized in a long-term care facility, nursing home, rehabilitation facility or other similar facility and not financially able to meet the child support obligation;
    • Is incarcerated, but participating in a counseling, job training or self-improvement program approved by DOR;
    • Is on active duty in the U.S. armed forces and paying child support by income withholding, but the payments are not enough to meet the required minimum monthly payment; or
    • Is subject to severe financial hardship as determined by DOR.

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10. How long will the other parent be exempt from interest and penalty charges?

The length of the exemption depends on the reason for the exemption. DOR requires the other parent to provide updated documentation showing that he or she continues to qualify for the exemption. If the other parent does not provide updated documentation, we will begin to charge interest and penalty when the exemption expires. In addition, even if we allowed an exemption, we can charge interest and penalty retroactively for any period we determine that the other parent did not actually meet the exemption criteria.

In general, most exemptions expire after one year. In some circumstances, the exemption remains in effect until the other parent no longer meets the criteria. For example, if the other parent qualifies for an exemption because he or she is living with the minor child, the exemption does not expire until the child no longer resides with the other parent or the child is emancipated, whichever occurs earlier

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11. Will DOR charge interest and penalty if money is collected through an enforcement action, such as a bank levy or state tax refund intercept?
Any payment that equals or exceeds the required monthly payment will prevent charges of interest and penalty, even if the payment was the result of an enforcement action.

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12. The other parent is making regular payments and DOR is not assessing interest and penalty, but I am still owed past-due support. Will DOR still use enforcement actions to collect the past-due support if the other parent is paying regularly?
The monthly payment requirements to prevent interest and penalty charges do not prevent DOR from using its enforcement actions to collect what is owed to you. DOR will continue to use all authorized means to collect past-due support until the past-due support is paid in full.

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13. The other parent told me that he or she is applying for a waiver of interest and penalty, but I don't want to waive the interest owed to me. Will I be required to waive the interest?
No. You cannot be required to waive any interest owed to you. DOR can waive the interest and penalty owed to the Commonwealth if the other parent pays the total amount of past-due support owed to you and the Commonwealth and the total amount of interest owed to you. Although you can agree to waive all or a portion of the interest owed to you, that is your decision and DOR will never require you to waive any interest.

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Revised October 2010