When DOR is providing child support services, we'll decide what services may be available and best suited to your case. Since we follow state and federal law, this may mean that we will handle your case in a way different from what you prefer. For example, you might want to go to court to ask for a judge to enforce your child support order. However, we may choose to use administrative enforcement (enforcement actions that do not require a judge’s order), such as transferring the income withholding to a new employer and increasing the income withholding to collect past-due support instead.
If your case meets certain criteria, we may use a whole range of administrative enforcement methods when you might prefer only one or two. Most of these administrative enforcement methods are automated, which means that when your case meets the required criteria, our computer system automatically implements these methods. This automated process makes sure that you receive the most efficient and effective service possible
How we collect and distribute child support
State and federal law govern the collection and distribution of child support payments.
Whenever possible, we collect child support by income withholding. That means we tell the noncustodial parent’s employer to automatically take child support from the parent's paycheck and send the payments to us. The court must order income withholding before we tell an employer to deduct the child support from a parent’s check.
When a noncustodial parent owes past-due support (arrears), we may collect the past-due support through 1 or more of the following:
- Increase the income withholding by an additional 25%
- Place a lien on the noncustodial parent's real estate (house or land) or personal property
- Suspend the noncustodial parent's business, trade, professional or driver's licenses or motor vehicle registrations
- Refer the case to the U.S. Department of State for denial of the noncustodial parent's passport
- Seize funds from bank accounts, business or personal property or any lump-sum payments and lottery winnings received by the noncustodial parent
- Take funds from lottery or gaming winnings received by the noncustodial parent
- Intercept state and federal tax refunds, insurance settlements, workers' compensation or unemployment compensation benefits or payments received by the noncustodial parent
- Report the noncustodial parent's past-due child support debt to credit reporting agencies
- Seek civil contempt of court. The court may order the noncustodial parent to be incarcerated until the child support debt is paid
- Send the case to a collection agency
When we collect payments, payments go to current support first and then to past-due support. The exception is money collected from federal tax refund intercepts, which must apply to past-due support first.
More than 1 family may be entitled to a parent's support payments. If a parent has child support orders for children in more than 1 household, we first distribute current support payments due among all the households, and then distribute any past-due support among all of them.
If we collect less than the full amount owed for all households, the amount collected is distributed in proportion to the amount of the current support owed. You may not determine how payments will be allocated when more than 1 child or more than 1 family is owed support.
Additional Resources for
Your own responsibilities
You must cooperate with us and provide us with the information necessary to process your case. If you don’t, we may close your case. We depend on the information you provide to effectively process your case.
You must notify us before you enter into any:
- Stipulation, or
- Modification that would affect your child support and the status of your case
You must also provide us with copies of these papers.
Once we open a case for you, all child support payments must be made through DOR.
If you are the custodial parent, you must not accept child support payments directly from the noncustodial parent, or else we have the right to close your case.
If you are the noncustodial parent, you must not send your child support payments directly to the custodial parent. If you make direct payments, we will have no record of the payments, which means we will conclude that you are delinquent, and we will take enforcement actions to collect the child support.
You must notify us if you change your:
- Social Security number
- Driver's license number
- Home or cell phone number
- Employer, or
- Your employer's address or telephone number changes
You should always provide accurate information to the best of your ability. If you do not inform us of your whereabouts and we lose contact with you, we may close your case.
Maintain and check child support records:
If you receive child support payments through us, you must review and verify the information on checks, statements and other documents you receive from us to confirm that your:
- Social Security number, and
- Any other information
is accurate. You must also notify us if there appears to be an error.
Make sure to:
- Keep accurate records of all child support payments.
- Record each payment you make or receive each month.
- If you pay child support
- save check stubs showing deductions from your pay for child support, or
- if you pay child support by check, save your cancelled checks.
- Keep all documents related to your child support in a file or other container and organize them in a logical way (such as by date). Make copies of any letters you send or receive from us, even if they seem unimportant at the time, and keep them with your records.
For us to provide you with services on your case, you may have to:
- Sign complaints and affidavits
- Appear in court
- Appear for paternity testing
- Provide information, including financial information, about yourself and the other parent
You must review and verify the payment amounts you receive from us.
You must notify us immediately if there appears to be an error in the payment amount. If you receive a payment in error, we may keep any subsequent collections or a portion of them to repay the amount paid to you in error.
We will notify you if an error occurs and will contact you regarding repayment of the amount paid in error.
You should inform us of any safety issues or concerns. If you are concerned that child support services will put you or your children's safety at risk, please call us at (800) 332-2733 or (617) 660-1234.
Having your case closed
Under certain circumstances, we may also close your case if:
- You fail to cooperate with our staff. For example, failing to appear in court when necessary, or failing to provide us with information about yourself and the other parent.
- You fail to inform us of your whereabouts and we lose contact with you. Not informing us means you may not receive timely notice of any actions taken on your case to modify or enforce your court order, and we may close your case.
- You accept direct payments from the noncustodial parent.
Before we take any action to close your case, we will send you a letter. The letter will:
- Explain that we are considering closing your case
- Explain why we are thinking of doing so
- Offer you an opportunity to respond
If you still fail to respond to or cooperate with us, we will close your case and notify you that we have done so.
Additional Resources for
Terminating child support services and closing your own case
You can ask us to stop providing services and close your case by calling us at (800) 332-2733 or (617) 660-1234. We will then review your case to see if it should be closed.
We will not close your case if:
- You are the custodial parent and you or the children receive public assistance (TAFDC or some types of Medicaid)
- There is money still due to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for any period you received public assistance (TAFDC), or
- You have not repaid payments made to you in error.
If you want to reopen your case, you must reapply for services.
Income withholding only:
All child support orders that require child support to be paid by income withholding are collected by DOR. Even if we are not providing full child support services, we must continue to collect payments from an employer if the court ordered support to be paid by income withholding. The only service we will provide is to send a bill to the employer and send payments from the employer to the parent to whom the child support is owed. We won't enforce the child support order if payments are not made.
Additional Resources for
Information privacy and confidentiality
Federal and state law protects any personal information we have about you and your family. We are committed to protecting your privacy and keeping information about your case confidential as well as we can. However, some laws require us to share certain information. For example, all states provide case information and have access to the Federal Case Registry, which maintains information on child support cases to help collect support when the parents live in different states.
We may need to provide information from your case file:
- To the other parent in your case and to other agencies or persons who work with us, to provide you with child support services, including:
- The Department of Transitional Assistance
- District attorneys
- Court personnel
- Child support enforcement agencies in other states
- Paternity testing laboratories
- Other private companies under contract with DOR/CSE to provide child support enforcement services.
- In connection with the filing of any documents in court. Most documents filed with the court require us to include your name and address.
- In connection with any investigation, prosecution or proceedings concerning:
- Child support enforcement
- Administration of public assistance, or
- Suspected instances of physical or sexual abuse or neglect of a child
We are authorized to use parents' and children's Social Security numbers in providing child support services. When we provide you with services, we must use your Social Security number.
About DOR counsel and private counsel
Legal counsel provided by DOR
DOR attorneys do not represent the custodial or noncustodial parent or the child. DOR attorneys represent the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue to further the Commonwealth's interest in determining parentage and securing financial and medical support for the children involved. We are required to present all relevant facts to a court, regardless of which parent those facts may benefit. We strive to treat both parents fairly, equitably and respectfully in all dealings.
DOR attorneys have an obligation to their client - DOR, a public agency with finite resources - to work in a balanced and efficient way so as to benefit the greatest number of children in need of services and to further the Commonwealth's public policy to ensure that children are supported by their parents and not the taxpayer. If we assign an attorney to your case, the attorney will provide those services on your case that we determine to be appropriate.
We may provide child support services to both parents in a case. There is no attorney-client relationship, so our attorneys are required to report suspected instances of welfare or tax fraud.
We are committed to helping parents and children secure the child support to which they are entitled. Because our caseloads are high, there may be times when it may not be possible for us to devote as much individual attention to your case as you or DOR would like. If you feel DOR is not as effective as you would like, you always have the option of hiring your own attorney or private investigator, or proceeding on your own (called proceeding "pro se").
If you proceed on your own, you must plan for the court hearing and make sure that you have the proof you need for your case.
Remember, you must also immediately tell us if the court makes a change to your child support order.
Private counsel may be able to provide you with individualized attention that DOR cannot, and can represent you personally. DOR and private counsel can work in partnership to maximize the strengths of each. We will cooperate with your attorney as long as you keep us informed of all activities related to your child support case.