Under Massachusetts law, both parents have a duty to support their child. Typically, following a separation or divorce, only one parent is considered the custodial parent. This is the parent who lives with and has primary care of the child.
The support provided by the custodial parent is offered in the time and care given to the child. When families no longer live under one roof, sharing duties equally can be difficult. This is why one parent generally performs more of the task related roles, such as taking the child to school and providing meals, while the other offers support financially.
Some families try to avoid the court and legal battles by setting their own agreed-upon child support arrangements. In some cases, this even works—until it doesn’t. Without a formal court order to substantiate an agreement, a parent receiving money can allege the other isn’t holding up their end of the deal. If the paying parent cannot prove they have, in fact, been financially supporting their child, they may be hit with back child support. This can have detrimental financial and legal consequences, such as increased wage garnishments, contempt charges, and more.
Whether you have a court-ordered agreement or another arrangement, you can protect yourself by keeping track of your child support payments. Below are some recommended steps you can take to avoid any doubt that you have fulfilled your financial child support obligations.
First, it’s best to avoid paying in cash. Cash is difficult to track. Unless you receive a receipt from the receiving parent, cash payments can be hard to prove. Checks and money orders are much easier to track. Be sure to note in the memo section that the money is for a child support payment. If using money orders, save the receipts for your records.
Start keeping all receipts related to child care expenses. Document and track every cent you spend, no matter how small the bill is. Having proof of all payments and purchases made for the benefit of your child can go a long way if you are ever facing accusations regarding the support you provide.
You can also follow up payments with an email or text to the receiving parent confirming payments have been accepted. Save these communications to use as evidence in your favor.
When a court orders child support, wage garnishment is typically issued. This is the process of deducting your child support payments directly from your wages. This is the easiest way to settle and prevent payment disputes. However, parents do have the right to forgo this option if both parents agree that support payments will be made directly to the other parent.
It’s important you understand your rights and obligations when it comes to your duty as a parent to support your child. When you need assistance navigating the legalities of Massachusetts family law, we’re here to help. If you need guidance on obtaining or enforcing court-ordered payments, or you need to provide proof of payment, contact our office today.