Massachusetts child support enforcement improved, not perfect

Statistics show that Massachusetts is becoming more adept at getting those residents who owe child support to pay up, but issues still remain when it comes to tracking down ‘deadbeat’ parents across state lines. The Department of Revenue’s child support enforcement division collected 68 percent of child support owed last year, but even though that ranks the state eighth in the nation for child support collections, more than $225 million remained uncollected.

Massachusetts once faced a staggering total of unpaid child support exceeding $1.3 billion in 2004, but overall the state is improving its collection efforts. Last year the state operated one of the most cost-effective support collection operations in the nation. For every dollar spent on collection the state returned almost $10 in child support, which ranks Massachusetts third in cost-effective efficiency among state child support collection systems.

However, one area where many states continue to struggle is collecting from people who leave the state and become undetectable. A recent example involves a man who left Massachusetts and moved to North Carolina and wasn’t tracked down until police investigated him on a separate matter. The former Brockton resident owed nearly $500,000 in unpaid child support.

If and when interstate deadbeat parents are located, collecting can still prove very difficult. In this case the judge offered to reduce the man’s prison sentence from over 22 years to just one year if he manages to come up with only about one-tenth of the amount he owes.

Massachusetts does not yet have a perfect child support enforcement system even though the state seems to be improving its efficiency. With a huge workload to manage, the state’s child support enforcement agency lacks the resources to vigorously enforce support orders in every individual case. In some cases, assistance from an experienced family law attorney can make the difference in enforcing child support obligations if your ex is behind in payments.

Source: The Enterprise, “Once across state lines, deadbeat parents long gone and hard to find,” Justin Graeber,” Sept. 2, 2012

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