Child support payments made tougher by COVID-19

BOSTON — Chicono Camillo says that he pays child support for three children, but has not been able to work since the pandemic began due to diabetes and asthma which put him at high risk to catch the deadly disease.

“My primary care (doctor) and my lung doctor, they all say that I can’t go in,” explained Camillo.

Camillo sold cellphones, and while he can’t work, he continues to get notifications from the state to pay child support.

“It’s super frustrating.”

Marcus Esteves of Methuen tells Boston 25 News he had paid $220 per week for one of his children until he was laid off a month ago from a job shuttling travelers from Logan International Airport to different destinations.

“I have exactly $0 coming into my account,” he told Boston 25 News.

The Child Support Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue serves those who pay and receive child support and asks those facing financial hardship who owe child support to call them and said he was told to try to borrow money.

“If you miss two payments in a row, they suspend my license,” explained Estevez.

As a transport driver, he says losing a license would end his career in the industry.

“If everything else is on pause, child support should also be on pause,” stated Estevez.

Boston 25 News spoke with two legal experts about the options for people who are struggling with child support payments due to the stay-at-home advisory and State of Emergency in Massachusetts.

“They should be making their best efforts to pay their child support because it is a court order,” said Martin Kane, of McGrath & Kane, a Boston firm specializing in divorce litigation and negotiation.

Kane advises that parents without custody find a way to pay child support but if they can’t, make an arrangement with the former spouse to whom the payment is owed, and said a final option would be filing with the courts.

“Unfortunately the courts are operating on an emergency basis only, said Dana Lauer, Litigation Manager at Boston’s office of Cordell and Cordell, a national domestic litigation firm.

Lauer said payors can file for child support modification, if successful, the relief would be retroactive, but the Department of Revenue will not file paper for you, seeking professional legal advice is recommended. If there is an open case with the court, Lauer said one can file to reduce child support, though there are problems with these options.

“We don’t know when the courts are going to open to full capacity,” Lauer said.

The State Department of Revenue (DOR) declined an interview but said they encourage noncustodial parents to reach out to them directly to discuss their particular situation and work to find the best solution.

Child Support Enforcement can be reached online or by phone, (617) 660-1234 or (800) 332-2733.

Federal stimulus checks for non-custodial parents who are late on payments are subject to having the checks intercepted, according to the DOR.

Furthermore, if they lost a job and are collecting unemployment, they say child support should be withheld from those payments.

A DOR spokesperson said the department is committed to working with noncustodial and custodial parents through the COVID-19 crisis.

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