For parents who are divorcing, navigating issues related to custody and child support can be complex and emotionally charged.
Ideally, both parents can find a balanced, fair way to contribute to their children’s upbringing. However, when conflicts arise, there are civil and legal means to resolve these issues.
How courts decide custody and child support
Although both parents can file for custody, many divorcing parents choose to discuss their options and reach a settlement before they go to court. In Massachusetts, family courts prioritize the interests of the children when determining custody and child support. Once the judge issues a ruling, the parents should create a written plan that details how they intend to handle support payments, visitation rights and future disputes.
Enforcement and consequences for parents
There are legal and civil ways to enforce child support and custody plans. First, late child support payments can accrue penalty fees and interest, though there are exceptions pertaining to disabled, unemployed and incarcerated parents. Failure to pay can lead to wage garnishment and levies of bank accounts. Also, the courts can hold a parent who repeatedly shirks their responsibilities regarding child support and care in contempt.
Sometimes parents are even arrested and sent to jail for willfully avoiding child support payments. Finally, a divorced parent dealing with an ex-spouse who fails to meet financial obligations may seek to change the child custody agreement and obtain full custody.
In Massachusetts, both parents must take responsibility for their minor children. Parents who do not honor child custody and child support agreements may face legal consequences.