While many divorced couples in Massachusetts honor both the letter and the spirit of the terms set by the court, there are situations in which one of the former spouses will not comply with the provisions of the decree. If you find yourself dealing with this type of situation in MA, rest assured there are things you can do. Here are a few examples.
Failure to Pay Spousal Support in Mass.
While divorce laws do vary somewhat from one state to the next, choosing to not pay spousal support in Massachusetts typically brings about some serious repercussions. The key to taking action against an non-compliant former spouse rests in your commitment to properly document your efforts to work with the spouse and resolve the situation.
When the spousal support begins to fall behind, written communications are important. Keep them simple and straightforward. Focus on the fact that a payment was not made by the agreed upon date and ask when it will be sent. As the former spouse continues to ignore those written requests, send additional ones so that it is possible to establish that those payments are not missing because the individual keeps forgetting to mail them.
After several written notifications, including at least a couple sent by certified mail, it’s time to talk with your Massachusetts attorney. Provide the originals of your written attempts to your attorney and confirm that no response was received. Depending on the laws that apply in the jurisdiction where the divorce was awarded, there is a good chance of being able to have your former spouse declared in contempt. That may pave the way for garnishing his or her wages, and maybe even being arrested and facing some jail time. It may also means that the court will apply interest to the support that is in arrears, creating even more of an obligation for the delinquent former spouse.
Denial of Visitation Rights
If you happen to be the non-custodial parent and your former spouse keeps coming up with all sorts of excuses why you can’t have your weekends with your child, it is time to take some action. As with spousal support, child custody and visitation laws do vary from one jurisdiction to another. What you must do is talk with a lawyer who is well versed in the laws that apply in the jurisdiction currently overseeing the arrangement.
Documentation is again very important. To that end, keep text messages, voice mail messages, and any written communications that the custodial parent sends in relation to the visitation. All of that data should be turned over to your attorney. From there, the Massachusetts attorney can send a formal letter to the custodial parent urging that all attempts to deny you visitation cease and desist immediately. If the letter is ignored and another incident takes place, then the lawyer can file a formal complaint with the court.
Should all the previous efforts fail to capture the attention of the custodial parent, hearing from the court certainly will. Since the penalty for preventing a parent from exercising his or her visitation rights can range from a hefty attorneys to spending a night or two in jail for contempt, chances are that your former spouse will become cooperative very quickly.
Failure to Pay Child Support in Massachusetts
Non-custodial parents in Massachusetts have a legal obligation to provide financially for their children. If you have physical custody of the kids and the non-custodial parent is not honoring those obligations, you do have recourse through the court system.
Do try to communicate in some sort of documented form about the arrears. If nothing can be worked out, make an appointment with your MA lawyer. A legal professional can notify the errant parent that action will take place if the past due child support is not caught up by a certain date. Should the parent fail to respond, then authorize the Mass. attorney to file a complaint with the court and let the chips fall where they may.
One thing that you need to remember is that most courts of jurisdiction frown on custodial parents withholding visitation privileges just because a non-custodial parent does not make support payments on time. In fact, choosing this route will only muddy the waters and make it possible for your former spouse to file a counter claim. Most importantly, denying your kids access to the non-custodial parent is not in their best interests.
Whatever the actions of your former spouse, keep your cool and make use of the resources provided by the Massachusetts (MA) legal system. Taking the high road and doing everything in order increases the odds of protecting your rights, and ensuring you receive whatever benefits that you are entitled to receive.