May 2009 Newsletter



All parents are required to provide support for their children.  The Department of Revenue through the Child Support Enforcement Division is the agency that will provide services to parents who seek such assistance in establishing and enforcing a child support order.  Often, an order is issued in the Probate & Family Court for a weekly amount, that may be paid weekly, biweekly, or monthly.  In the event that the parties agree that the monies are to be paid via a suspended wage assignment, it is the non-custodial parent's (obligor's) responsibility to pay it in a timely manner.  In the event that the monies are not paid pursuant to the terms of the court order or judgment, or are not paid at all, it is possible to obtain an implemented wage assignment from the court, in order to have the Department of Revenue garnish the obligor's wages.  At the time of a child support order, the custodial parent may elect to receive services from the Department of Revenue.  In the event that the custodial parent does not wish to have the services, he or she must fill out the appropriate forms at the time of the hearing.  These forms and other information are available at  If the custodial parent is receiving, or has received, monies from the Department of Transitional Assistance, the Department of Revenue may initiate a complaint for support for the benefit of the minor children.  The Department may seek monies in cases where the parties are married, or who have never been married.  In the event that it is a Complaint for Custody, Support, and Visitation, or a Complaint for Paternity, the Department also conducts genetic marker tests to determine an individual to be the father of the child.  The Department of Revenue schedules "block days" in each of the Probate Courts on a regular basis.  At such time, the attorneys from the Department of Revenue will request an order from the court, which will usually be implemented through a wage assignment.  The Department of Revenue does not have authority to enter any orders other than child support, current and, in the case of paternity, perhaps retroactive child support as well.  The Department does not address issues related to custody or visitation.  Those matters must be scheduled pursuant to applicable local court rules.
In the event that the custodial parent requests services from the Department of Revenue, both parties may request a pin number, and he/she will be able to access his or her account online, to determine when the payment has been made and the amount of the payments.  In the event a party does not pay his or her child support timely or no monies are paid at all, the Department has a number of resources available to them to insure the noncustodial parent's compliance in paying child support.  These resources include, but are not limited to levying against bank accounts, seizing state and federal refunds, insurance settlements, etc.  Each case is assigned a case manager if there are questions as to a particular account.  The recipient of child support should contact the case manager for further assistance.  The Department of Revenue has offices in each Probate Court, as well as the main location at 110 Mulberry Street in Brockton.  For more information as to forms and additional resources that the department offers, please refer to their website.

Supplemental Rule 411 of the Massachusetts Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure went into effect January 1, 2000.  Many litigants in divorce and separate support matters are unaware that an automatic restraining order is entered against them prohibiting them from certain actions.  The automatic restraining order specifically prohibits and prevents litigants from selling, transferring, or in any way disposing of any real or personal property.  Additionally, the rule prevents either party from incurring any debts that would burden the credit and/or assets of the other party, including but not limited to obtaining any credit lines against the marital residence, or using any credit card or cash advances.  The parties are required to maintain the current beneficiary of any life insurance policy, pension, or retirement plan, and must also continue to cover the other party and/or the minor children under any existing insurance policies, including medical, dental, life, automobile, and disability insurance.  At the time that an individual files a divorce or separate support complaint in the Probate & Family Court, he or she is immediately prohibited from accessing or encumbering any funds, etc., unless there is a written agreement with both parties or an order of the court.  The Plaintiff receives a summons from the court that is to be served with a copy of the complaint for either divorce or separate support on the Defendant.  Unfortunately, many individuals fail to read the summons at the time they receive it.  The Defendant is obligated to the terms of Rule 411 when he or she is served with the divorce or separate support complaint and summons.
Litigants should be aware that the courts take the financial restraining order very seriously, and any alleged violation may result in sanctions and/or monetary fines against the party who failed to comply with the rule.  Both parties, the Plaintiff and Defendant, should review the automatic restraining order carefully, and refrain from making any changes that are prohibited by Rule 411.  In the event that there is a necessity to obtain a loan, access a home equity line, or any other activity that would be prohibited under the rule, he or she would be well advised to file a motion and bring the matter before the court to obtain court approval, unless there is a written agreement of both parties.  No one should rely on the verbal representation of the other, as the rule specifically requires either a written agreement or an order of the court.
There are exceptions to the automatic restraining order.  Parties are allowed to access funds for the payment of reasonable attorney's fees and costs in connection with either the divorce or the separate support, monies required for reasonable expenses of living, and/or monies required for the ordinary and usual course of business.  The financial restraining order remains in effect until the order is either modified or dissolved by the court, the order is modified by a written agreement of the parties with court approval, or the entry of a judgment of divorce or separate support.  Note that the financial restraining order clearly states that "failure to comply with this order may be deemed a contempt of court."

Issue: 6

scales of justice

In This Issue
Child Support Payments and the Department of Revenue
Automatic Financial Restraining Order in Divorce and Separate Support Matters


The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles no longer notifies drivers when their license is up for renewal.  This change occurred some time ago, but most individuals are unaware that they will not be notified as to the expiration date of their current license.  Don't be caught unaware with an unexpired license.  Check your license today.
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Susan C. Ryan, Esq.
Law Office of Susan Castleton Ryan, PC
(781) 982-8850

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The information in this newsletter is intended solely for your information .  It does not constitute legal advice, and it should not be relied on without a discussion of your specific situation with an attorney.