Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law

Can't keep up with child support payments? Apply for modification

It is not uncommon for non-custodial parents to experience difficult financial situations that were not anticipated when child support orders were issued by the family court. Massachusetts parents whose financial situation has changed significantly and caused their inability to pay the full amount of child support may apply for a formal modification of an existing child support order. This may be worth noting because a willful failure to pay can result in severe penalties, sometimes many years later.

A father in another state learned recently that his alleged failure to keep up his child support payments over 25 years ago has come back to bite him. Although he denies owing any money, he is currently contesting a court order to pay over $48,000 at the age of 65. The "child" who the support was for is now 35 years old. The outstanding child support is only $4,700, and the balance is accumulated interest.

The father reported that he had been told by personnel at a child support office that he owed nothing. He says that was explained to him on numerous occasions over the years. At one time, his driver's license was suspended, and his salary garnished, but on every occasion, he visited the child support office where the punishments were canceled because, according to them, he owed nothing. He claims that when he offered to pay any outstanding amount, he was assured that there was no outstanding amount due. The court has ordered him to pay an amount of $111 per week until the full amount is settled.

If a parent in Massachusetts who is unable to pay the obligated amount of child support as stated in a court order is able to provide supporting documentation showing his or her deteriorated financial situation, they may be able to secure a modification of the court order. This could mean going back to the family court where the order was originally issued. In successful modification claims, the family court may agree to reduce the obligated amount to an acceptable level that will enable the parent to make regular payments.

Source: newschannel5.com, "Man Questions $48,000 Child Support Bill", Jennifer Kraus, May 2, 2014

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