Interest and penalties on past-due child support

Whether you’re receiving or paying child support, you need to know about interest and penalties on late child support payments and what they mean for you.

DOR has the authority to assess interest and penalty on past-due child support. The current version of the interest and penalty regulation took effect on July 1, 2010.

DOR began to assess interest and penalty on January 1, 1999. At that time, interest was assessed at the monthly rate of 1% and penalties were assessed at the monthly rate of 0.5%. As of July 1, 2010, the monthly interest rate is 0.5% and the monthly penalty rate is 0.5%.

We charge interest and penalty on the last day of each month in any case in which you owe more than $500 in past-due support, unless you have made the required minimum monthly payment.

We do not charge interest and penalty in cases where:

  • The only service we provide is collecting the child support paid by income withholding. We only charge interest and penalty in cases where we are providing full child support services. If you want to receive full DOR services, you can apply for child support services. We won’t assess interest and penalty for any period before we received your application for services.

    OR
     
  • The child support order was issued by a court in a different state. The interest and penalty rules apply only in cases where the order was issued by a Massachusetts court. If, however, the other state charges interest and notifies us of the amount, we will collect it.

If you're paying child support

Paying interest and penalty on late child support payments

Interest and penalty are charged on the total amount of past-due support owed on the last day of the month in each case where you owe more than $500, unless you have made the required minimum monthly payment. This includes any support that was due that month but you didn’t pay. We never charge interest or penalty on interest or penalty that was charged in prior months.

If you have more than 1 child support case, we look at each case separately to see if interest and penalty should be charged. You could be charged interest and penalty in one case but not another.

Required minimum payments (current and past-due):

For any month you pay the minimum required monthly payment, you will not be charged interest and penalty for that month.

If your case has a current support order, the minimum required payment is the total amount of current support due for that month.

Example: You have a current support order to pay $100 per week. If there are 4 Fridays in the month, you must pay $400 (4 x $100 per week) to prevent interest and penalty from being charged. If there are 5 Fridays, you must pay $500.

If there is no current support order but you still owe past-due support, you 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 past-due support. In that case, you must pay the amount specified by the court.

Example: There is no current support order, but you owe past-due support. The amount of the last current support order was $200 per week. If there are 4 Fridays in the month, you must pay $800 to prevent interest and penalty from being charged. If there are 5 Fridays, you must pay $1,000.

However, even if you make the minimum monthly payment required to prevent interest and penalty charges, we can still use other enforcement actions to collect the full amount of the past-due support (arrears) that you owe, such as intercepting your insurance settlement or seizing your bank account. We will use all available means to collect past-due support in full.

If we collect money through an enforcement action such as a bank levy or state tax refund intercept, it still counts towards the required monthly payment and will still prevent interest and penalty charges. An enforcement payment will count toward the required monthly payment for interest and penalty purposes, but only in the month we received the payment.

We put some enforcement payments on hold after collecting them so you have time to ask for an administrative review.

Administrative review and readjusted interest and penalty

If you requested an administrative review (because you disagreed with the amount of past-due support we said you owe), and past-due support is adjusted because of the review, your interest and penalty will also be adjusted. This happens whether the newly calculated support amount is more or less.

Exemptions from paying interest and penalty

Aside from making the minimum required monthly payments, you can avoid interest and penalty charges if you qualify for an exemption. If you believe that you qualify, notify us and provide the required documentation. In some cases, you must notify us periodically to show you that qualify for renewing your exemption. If you don’t provide updated documentation, we'll start to charge interest and penalty when the exemption expires. We’ll also assess interest and penalty retroactively for any time period where we gave you an exemption but later determined you didn't qualify.

You may be exempt if:

You must provide:

Exemption expires:

You receive SSI, TANF, EAEDC, state veterans' benefits or other needs-based cash benefits.

Copy of your benefits award letter

1 year from date you provide proof to DOR or the date the benefits stop, whichever is earlier. You can apply for an extension of the exemption each year you receive benefits.

You have a medical disability that prevents you from working and are not financially able to pay your support order. If you receive SSDI, VA or other disability benefits, you may be exempt if DOR is receiving payments, but the amount is not enough to meet the required minimum payment.

 

Letter from your physician describing your disability and a completed Statement of Financial Condition

1 year from date you provide proof to DOR or the date you are no longer disabled, whichever is earlier. You can apply for an extension of the exemption each year you are disabled.

You live with the child who is the dependent in your child support case  and the court terminated your current support order.

Court order awarding you physical custody; records indicating the child's residential address or the other parent's written statement that you live together with the child; AND a copy of the court order terminating current support

When the child no longer lives with you or date of the youngest child's emancipation, whichever is earlier.

You are not working, but are actively seeking employment or a workers' compensation insurer or state unemployment assistance agency is remitting payments to DOR, but the amount is not enough to meet the required minimum payment.

Proof of enrollment in a job training or seek work program or documentation as to amount of unemployment or workers' compensation you receive

1 year from date you provide proof to DOR or the date new employment begins, whichever is earlier. You can apply for a 1-year extension if you continue to be unemployed.

You are hospitalized in a nursing home, long-term care facility, rehabilitation facility or other similar facility and you are not otherwise financially able to pay your child support order.

Letter from your doctor or the institution and a completed Statement of Financial Condition

When you are no longer in the facility or date you become financially able to pay support, whichever is earlier.

You are incarcerated, but are participating in a counseling, job training or self-improvement program approved by DOR.

Documentation from your correctional facility showing you've participated or completed such a program, such as GED courses, responsible parenthood, AA, job training, etc.

1 year from date you began to participate in the program or the date of release or parole, whichever is earlier. You can apply for an extension of the exemption each year you participate in a program.

You are on active duty in the U.S. armed forces and child support is withheld from your pay, but the amount is not enough to meet the minimum payment exclusion.

Documentation showing you have been or are about to be deployed on active duty

1 year from date of deployment or date of discharge, whichever is earlier. You can apply for an extension each year you are deployed.

You filed a complaint for modification of your current support order and the order was reduced, suspended or terminated.

Copy of court order

Exemption begins on the date DOR or the other parent was served with a copy of your complaint and ends on date of order

You are under severe financial hardship, as determined by DOR.

Completed Statement of Financial Condition and proof of extreme hardship

1 year from date DOR approves hardship or when hardship no longer exists. You can apply for an extension each year the hardship exists.

Waiving interest and penalty you already owe

We can waive interest owed to the Commonwealth and penalties, if you voluntarily pay the total amount of past-due support owed to the Commonwealth and the other parent, plus the total interest owed to the other parent. If you have more than 1 case, we don’t waive any interest and penalty unless you voluntarily pay the total past-due support owed to the Commonwealth and all of the other parents plus the total interest owed to all of the other parents.

Additional Resources for If you're paying child support

If you're receiving child support

Receiving interest on late child support payments

We don’t 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.

If the other parent is making regular payments and we are not assessing interest and penalty, we can still use enforcement actions to collect what is owed to you, past-due support included. We will do what we can to collect past-due support until it is paid in full.

If we collect money through an enforcement action such as a bank levy or state tax refund intercept, it still counts towards the required monthly payment and will still prevent interest and penalty charges.

Current and past-due child support payments

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 always goes to the Commonwealth.

Example: You have a current support order for the other parent to pay $100 per week. If there are 4 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 5 Fridays, $500 must be paid.

If there is no current support order, but past-due support is 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 past-due support, 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 4 Fridays in the month, $800 must be paid for the other parent to meet the payment exclusion; if there are 5 Fridays, $1,000 must be paid.

Exemptions from paying interest and penalty

If the other parent in your case has not been making the required monthly payments, but we are still not charging any interest and penalty in your case, the other parent may qualify for an exemption from interest and penalty charges. While we can’t tell you the exact reason for the exemption because of 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, the parent will qualify for an exemption only if we receive regular payments from these benefits, but the payment is not enough to meet the required minimum monthly payment
  • Lives with the 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 job training or work-seeking program
  • Is not working and we receive 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.

The length of the exemption depends on the reason for the exemption. The other parent needs to provide us with updated documentation showing that he or she continues to qualify for the exemption. If they don’t, we will begin to charge interest and penalty when the exemption expires.

Most exemptions expire after 1 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 child, the exemption does not expire until the child no longer lives with the other parent or the child is emancipated, whichever occurs earlier.

Even if we allowed an exemption, we can also charge interest and penalty retroactively for any period we determine that the other parent did not actually meet the exemption criteria.

Waiver of interest and penalty

We 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, plus the total amount of interest owed to you.

If the other parent told you that they are applying for a waiver of interest and penalty, you are not required to waive any interest owed to you. Although you can agree to waive all or a part of the interest owed to you, that is your own decision and we will never require you to waive any interest.

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