Friday, March 29, 2013

How can the DOR help collect child support?

You may have seen that the latest New Jersey Powerball Winner who won $338,000,000 owes $29,000 in child support. If the mother who is owed child support was using the state government to help her collect that support, then that child support amount will likely be deducted from the winnings before he even receives them.

This is just one reason that you might want the state to assist you in collecting your child support, especially if there are arrears. In Massachusetts, the agency that oversees the collection of child support is called the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Division. The DOR CSE receives a copy of every child support order in Massachusetts, and when the order is created the child support recipient must decide if they want DOR to collect the child support from the payor.

In many cases, recipients simply choose to have the amounts paid directly, and only involve DOR if there is a problem. However, every recipient has the right to request DOR assistance from the beginning of their case. If the payor is employed, then DOR sends an order to the employer and collects the child support directly from the payor's paycheck. The downside to using DOR is that the payment will then typically be delayed one to two weeks before it reaches the recipient. The upside is that DOR is tracking the payments and the payor has no control over when payment is made since it is taken directly from their pay.

In addition, the DOR has other powers to collect child support when a payor falls behind or is unemployed. For example, DOR can divert tax refunds to pay overdue child support, can collect interest on arrears, and as in the case of the powerball winner, can take lottery winnings as well.

In addition, DOR may file Contempt or Modification complaints on behalf of some clients. While the DOR complaints are generally much slower than using an attorney, it is a viable alternative for those who cannot afford counsel and may not be comfortable navigating the court paperwork alone.

For more information about DOR/CSE in Massachusetts visit their webpage here.

Or click here to find more information about child support generally in Massachusetts.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Who pays the child's uninsured medical expenses in a divorce?

While it is often typical for couples to agree to split the uninsured medical expenses in a divorce case, the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines actually suggest a slightly different approach:

"3) Routine Uninsured Medical and Dental Expenses: The Recipient shall be responsible for payment of the first $250 each year in combined routine uninsured health and dental/vision expenses for all the children covered by this order. For amounts above that limit, at the time of entry of establishing or modifying the support order, the Court shall allocate expenses between the parties without adjustment to the child support order.

4) Uninsured Extraordinary Medical and Dental Expenses: The payment of uninsured extraordinary medical and dental expenses incurred for the children, absent agreement of the parties, shall be treated on a casebycase basis. (Example: orthodontia, psychological/psychiatric counseling, etc.) Where the Court makes a determination that such medical and dental services are necessary and are in the best interests of the child(ren), the Court shall allocate such expenses between the parties."
Routine costs typically include copays, prescriptions and other regular expenses which are not covered by insurance.  One rationale behind requiring the child support recipient to pay the first $250 per year is that for many children routine costs won't exceed that amount, and reimbursement issues between parents is therefore minimized but only up to a reasonable cap.

Of course, parties have the right to deviate from the guidelines and many will agree to simply split these expenses equally.  However, a recent Massachusetts Appeals Court decision suggests that the Judge cannot vary from this approach without making specific findings of fact.  In Murphy v. Murphy 11-P-1032 - (2012)  the appeals court overturned the trial court's order that the Father should pay 100% of the uninsured medical expenses because there were no findings as to why the court deviated from the guidelines.

As a practice tip if you are suggesting that the court deviate from the guidelines, provide the Judge with a clear proposed Findings of Fact stating why that deviation is justified.

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