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Guide to Collecting on Past Due Arrears for Child Support, Spousal Support and Family Law Judgments in Massachusetts

Includes Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Support and Family/Probate Judgment Collections

This guide provides an outline of the typical questions clients have relating to How to Collect on Past Due support and other obligations under a Family Court order or judgment.  Included below are the answers to these typically-asked questions.  For more information about divorce including divorce judgments, click here.  To learn about how to modify a family court judgment, click here.

It is important to note that our firm handles collection of past-due child and spousal support arrears throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, not just in the south coast area.  We have handled countless collection cases in the past and know how to get results.  In many circumstances, our assistance to a client for a family/probate law collections matter may not cost anything to the client unless we collect on the judgment.

What does collection on a “family court judgment” or “probate court judgment” mean?

When talking about collection matters relating to family law cases, we are talking about a situation where a party has failed to pay a court-ordered obligation to the other party, including a child support order, spousal support order, order to pay arrearages, order to transfer property, order to make an equalization payment, and so forth.

How do I calculate what I am owed?

The first step in determining what is owed under a support or other family law judgment or order, is to review the order itself and to obtain a certified copy of that order.  You need to obtain all the orders that relate to the case if there were any modifications of the order or judgment after the initial one.  Then you should make a spreadsheet and compare what amount was actually paid, if anything, with the amount that was due.  With this information, your attorney can calculate what is owed in total, including interest that may have accrued.

How do I obtain a certified copy of my order or judgment?

To obtain certified copies of any document that is in your family court (including divorce, paternity, or separate support) case, you simply need to visit the courthouse where your file is kept.  For example, in Bristol County all family law files are kept at the Taunton Courthouse, located here.

How likely is it that I will collect all the money I am owed under a divorce judgment?

There are a wide number of factors that will determine whether a party will collect on a past-due order for payment of child or spousal support, reimbursements, equalization payments or other family court judgment or order.  Some factors that will determine whether a debt is collectable includes the following:

  • Whether the person owing the money is employed
  • Whether the person owing the money has any assets to collect on
  • Whether the person owing the money has any retirement accounts
  • Whether the person owing the money is remarried
  • Whether the person owing the money can easily be found
  • Whether the original or any subsequent court orders for payment of support or other money is valid.

My former spouse may receive an inheritance or recurring gift.  Can I seek payment toward the amount owed from those funds?

In most cases, yes.  We have handled many cases involving a support order or divorce judgment where one party owes a substantial sum of money and is set to receive an inheritance.  In those instances, we normally have to act extremely quickly to file a motion to determine arrears, file additional injunction motions in the Family and Probate Court to stop any distributions/payments to the person owing the money by the estate executor or trustee, and sometimes file pleadings in the probate case where the inheritance is going to be paid to the person that owes money in the family law case.

How quickly do I need to act to hire an attorney to help me collect on money owed under a support order or divorce/separate support judgment?

In most cases, it is prudent to act extremely quickly in interviewing and hiring an attorney to pursue collection of an order for child or spousal support, equalization payment, order for division of assets, or other similar family court decree or judgment.  There are many reasons to act quickly, which may include being able to locate and serve the person owing money, identification and attachment of assets including real property, and so forth.  For example, if the other party is currently employed and his wages can be garnished, we would want to act quickly.

Do you offer a contingency fee option for handling divorce collection cases?

In many circumstances, our firm will take on a collections case under a contingency fee agreement, which means that we only get paid if we help you collect money.

Can you help me determine the likelihood of success in collecting on the money that is owed to me under a child support, spousal support or equalization payment?

Yes.  We have a team of divorce judgment experts that can help you assess whether to pursue a collections litigation.  Most times, we will do the legwork and research to help determine whether the other party is employed, has assets, enjoys a comfortable lifestyle, and so forth.  After we do our initial research we will have a good idea about whether the judgment will be collectible or not, and we can advise you accordingly.

Does your divorce law firm handle arrears cases throughout Massachusetts?

Yes.  We handle collections throughout the Commonwealth and most of the work is done outside of any courtroom setting.  If the need arises to appear in court, we will handle the appearance.

If you have a order for child support or spousal support, equalization payment or other family law order, contact our office today.  We can be reached easily by phone at (508) 316-9720 & (617) 795-3611, or by email.  Our expert attorneys are standing by to help you and discuss your options in plain language.  Since we have successfully helped countless clients with their family law collections matters without any cost to them, let us review your options with you.

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