Child Support and Out-of-State Issues

Whether one parent is living just over the Massachusetts border in New Hampshire but still commutes to Boston every day, or whether the one parent is living on the West Coast while the children live with the other in the Merrimack Valley, issues of state jurisdiction may come into play when seeking to modify a Massachusetts child support judgment or temporary order.

Changing Circumstances, Modifying Orders

In Massachusetts, child support is governed either by temporary orders or by final judgements. Temporary orders govern the terms of child support while there is still open legal action in process to establish a final judgement.

The term “final judgement” is something of a misnomer. “Final” does not mean that the judgement can never be altered again. A child support final judgement may be renegotiated or changed by the Court in the future. This can be done with the agreement of both parents by filing a Joint Complaint for Modification, or one parent may file an individual Complaint for Modification. To be successful in modifying child support, certain conditions must be met.

The conditions under which one parent can successfully file to modify a child support judgement include:

  • The amount of child support varies from a current calculation of the child support guidelines;
  • Changes to the gross income of either or both parents;
  • Unavailability of previously ordered health coverage, either because of job loss or unduly burdensome cost increases;
  • New availability of health care coverage through a parent;
  • One or more of the children reaches age eighteen; or
  • Any other material change in circumstances.

What to Do When One Parent Lives in a Different State

When one parent lives out of state, modifying and enforcing a child support judgement presents some logistical challenges, but there are clear channels for inter-state cooperation in upholding child support agreements. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts cooperates with other states, under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), to enforce child support orders.

If one parent lives outside Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts-resident parent needs to file a complaint for modification or a complaint for contempt against the parent living outside the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts resident can file the complaint in family court as usual and hire a constable or other agent in the other parent’s state to serve the paperwork if the original judgment was made in a Massachusetts Probate & Family Court. If the Judgment was made in another state and one parent resides in that state, the original issuing state (state that made the order) retains jurisdiction. If another state made the order and neither parent lives in the issuing state, then jurisdiction would be the state where the child resides.

If the out-of-state parent is not paying court-ordered child support, the Massachusetts parent may also contact the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue for help in arranging that overdue child support be deducted from the noncompliant parent’s paycheck. The child support payee or recipient can also privately file a Complaint for Contempt seeking to enforce the child support order.

If a parent moves outside of Massachusetts but receives child support through a Massachusetts child support judgement, the judgement remains valid until a court alters it.

If you are a Massachusetts resident receiving child support from an out-of-state ex-spouse and need help modifying or enforcing the order across state lines, call our office today to discuss your family’s situation.

Categories: Articles and Family Law & Divorce.