Massachusetts divorce lawyer James M. Lynch discusses how child support arrears never expire in Massachusetts.
Recently, we have been getting calls from across the World Wide Web from people with grown children who are now being sued for child support by their state departments of revenue (“DOR”) – a decade or more after the emancipation of their children – and in some instances, for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Worse yet, they claim they to have fully paid their child support obligations long ago. Whether or not these cases are defensible depends upon the individual circumstances and the statutes of limitation in each state. It is worth noting, however, that a good number of states – like Massachusetts – have no statute of limitations. In other words, the Massachusetts DOR can come after the parent obligated to pay child support at any time in the future, regardless of the date of emancipation of the child. Other states have 20 year (and shorter) statutes of limitations for the collection of child support after the date of the child’s emancipation.
If you get one of these delinquency notices out of the blue from the DOR of your state or some other state alleging that you owe the custodial parent child support for your grown children, you need to speak with a lawyer immediately because your window to take steps to defend yourself is short. The notices generally state that if the noncustodial parent does not pay the debt within thirty days or file a request for an administrative review, the DOR can use a range of remedies to collect the debt, including but not limited to bank account levies, interception of your tax refund or even suspension of your driver’s license. The non-custodial parent has to exhaust the administrative review process in order to get the matter reviewed judicially, so that notice of delinquency triggers the only remedy that the non-custodial parent will get. Ignore it at your peril.
If you are a non-custodial parent paying a child support order now, there is a lesson in these cases for you: Keep evidence of your child support payments, whether or not you pay your child support obligation to the DOR or directly to the custodial parent. And because many banks will only keep check images for seven years (not to mention that banks have come and gone over the years) you have to rely upon yourself and keep cancelled child support checks forever – a task made easier today with digitized scanning technology. And lastly, NEVER pay your child support obligation in cash.