In Massachusetts, your obligation to pay child support may end for a variety of reasons:
- Your child moved in with you.
- Your child no longer resides with your ex.
- Your child has been adopted.
- Your child is emancipated. For example if your youngest child graduated from college. To learn more about when your child may be emancipated check out our blog When Does Child Support End in Massachusetts?
- You and your ex agree that you will no longer have to pay child support.
Can I just stop paying child support, or do I need the Court’s permission?
Even if one of the above changes in circumstances occurs, it is necessary to seek an order from the Court declaring that your obligation to pay child support is over, otherwise you may run into legal troubles, including a potential contempt action. For example, in Quinn v. Quinn, the parties’ separation agreement detailed that the father would pay $350 per week in child support. Subsequent to that agreement, the parties agreed that the father would only pay $250 per week in child support, but never got their agreement approved by the court or incorporated into a judgment from the court. Three years after their agreement, the wife filed a Complaint for Contempt seeking back payments for the difference between the $250 per week and the $350 per week. Ultimately, the Appeals Court ordered, despite the parties’ agreement to lower the child support, that the father owed back child support to the mother because their agreement was never made an order of the Court. Even though this case is about a reduction of child support, the same concept applies if you and your ex agree to terminate child support.
What if the Department of Revenue is involved in my case?
If the Department of Revenue is collecting and enforcing your child support order, you may need to return to Court. Often, the Department of Revenue will only cease collecting on a current order if it is clear that the condition to terminate your order has been met. For example, if your order states that you will pay child support until your child turns 21, then your child turns 21, the Department of Revenue will stop collecting any current amount of child support due without further order on your child’s 21st birthday (unless the recipient of the support seeks to extend the end date via a Complaint for Modification). However, often there are changes in circumstances that may require you to go back to Court to terminate your child support because they are so fact specific. For example, if your child moves in with you, you will need to seek a Court order terminating your child support obligation to ensure that DOR stops collecting.
How do I seek a Court order to stop paying child support?
If you and your ex agree that your child support should terminate, you can file a Joint Petition for Modification with your agreement. For more information click here.
If you and your ex do not agree to terminate your child support, you must file a Complaint for Modification, serve it on your ex and seek a Court date. Once at Court, you can explain to the judge why you are seeking to terminate your child support. If the judge agrees, they will issue an order terminating your child support. If you have a case with the Department of Revenue, it is very important to provide a copy of that order immediately to the Department of Revenue.
What if I owe past child support?
Even if your current order is terminated, the Department of Revenue may still collect child support from you if you owe child support from the past. It is important to make sure this amount is correct as well or you may have administrative remedies with the Department of Revenue.
If you should have any questions concerning child support in Massachusetts, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced family law attorneys at Wilchins Cosentino & Novins LLP at 781-235-5500 or schedule a phone call here.