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How do I get a Child Support Order if I am married to the other parent?

 

How do I start?

You must fill out the right forms. You can:

Also, the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division (DOR/CSE) can prepare the court forms and file them. Learn more, see The Department of Revenue.

Important

If you do not feel safe because of the other parent, you can ask the DOR for help. Tell the DOR you do not feel safe and that you do not want the other parent to know where you live. Learn more, see Domestic Violence and Child Support.

What is the right form for me?

File a Complaint for Divorce pdf icon if:

  1. are married to the other parent, 
  2. you want a divorce from that parent, and 
  3. you need child support.

File a Complaint for Separate Support pdf icon if:

  1. you are married to the other parent, 
  2. you do not want a divorce, and 
  3. you need child support,
  4. you also have issues like custody or visitation.

File a Complaint for Support of Spouse or Child pdf icon if you are married, and all you need from the court is child support.

Where do I file my case?

File your case by taking the complaint form other forms to the clerk’s office at the Probate and Family Court in the right county.

Complaint for Divorce 

If your spouse still lives in the county where you last lived together, you must file your case in that county. If not, you can file

  • in the county where you live, or 
  • where your spouse lives.  

Complaint for Separate Support

If your spouse still lives in the county where you last lived together, you must file your case in that county. If not, you can file

  • in the county where you live, or 
  • where your spouse lives.

Complaint for Support of Spouse or Child

File

  • in the county where you live, or
  • where your spouse lives.

Find the Probate and Family Court in the right county.

Follow these steps

  1. Serve the papers.

    Take the forms to the court clerk. The clerk will give you a “Domestic Relations Summons”. This is a court document that tells the other parent that you have filed a case in court and by what date he or she must let you and the court know that he or she is going to come to court to participate in the case.  The Summons also tells the other parent that the court can make a decision whether or not they come to court. The court can only decide your case after the other parent gets the summons.

    Take the summons and a copy of all the papers that you filed to a deputy sheriff or constable. They will deliver the summons to the other parent. Make sure to tell the sheriff or constable to give the summons and the "proof of service" back to you. The proof of service shows that the papers were delivered. When the deputy sheriff gives the papers to the other parent, it is called "service of process."

    If the court approved your Affidavit of Indigency, have a deputy sheriff serve the papers and give him or her a copy of the Affidavit of Indigency. This makes sure the deputy sheriff is paid for serving the summons. Wait for the sheriff or constable to return the summons and "Proof of Service" to you.  

    After the sheriff or constable serves the papers he or she fills out the section of the summons called the "Proof of Service".  Then he or she gives the original summons back to you.

  2. Make a "return of service."  Make a copy of the signed Domestic Relations Summons for your records. Take the original summons back to the court clerk. This is called "return of service." 
  3. Get a court date for a hearing for a Temporary Support Order If you filed a Complaint for Divorce or Separate Support you may need child support before the final hearing on your case. If that is so, talk to the court clerk and schedule a court date for a Temporary Support Order. You will need to file a “Motion for a Temporary Support Order”. When you file the motion, schedule a hearing with the court clerk.
  4. You must serve the other parent with a copy of your motion that says when and where the hearing is.
  5. Prepare and file the required financial papers. Fill out a Financial Statement. The Financial Statement is an extremely important court paper.  You must tell the truth about all your income and expenses. When you sign the Financial Statement you swear that what you write is true. Bring the Financial Statement to the court hearing.
  6. Go to the hearing on the scheduled court date. At the hearing you tell the judge that you need temporary child support from the other parent. If the court agrees, they make a Temporary Child Support Order. The temporary order lasts until the court holds a hearing about the Complaint you filed, for example your divorce complaint.

Can I ask for child support when I file for a restraining order?

Yes.  When you file for a restraining order you can ask for a child support order. It does not matter if you are married to the other parent or not.

You can ask for a child support order on the same form you use to to ask for a restraining order. See the  Complaint for Protection from Abuse  pdf icon page 1 and page 2 forms.

If you have been abused, filling out this form helps you get child support quickly.

If you have some financial support, it might be easier to separate from an abusive person.

You can file a case to get child support with a restraining order in a District Court or Boston Municipal Court as well as in a Probate and Family Court.

See How to ask for child support in a 209A Restraining order case.

Do I have to pay to file and serve the forms?

Most complaints about child support have fees to file and serve. 

Complaint for Divorce

All together costs $255-$265:

  • $215.00 filing fee that includes a $15.00 surcharge,
  • $5.00 for the blank summons you fill, and
  • $35.00 to $40.00 for a deputy sheriff or constable  to serve the complaint and summons.

Complaint for Separate Support

All together costs $155-$165:

  • $115.00 filing fee that includes a $15.00 surcharge,
  • $5.00 for the blank summons you fill, and
  • $35.00 to $40.00 for a deputy sheriff or constable  to serve the complaint and summons.

Complaint for Separate Support of Spouse and Child

All together costs $40-$50:

  • no filing fee,
  • $5.00 for the blank summons you fill, and
  • $35.00 to $40.00 for a deputy sheriff or constable  to serve the complaint and summons.

Complaint for Protection from Abuse

It costs nothing to file and serve a restraining order, the Complaint for Protection from Abuse.

  • no filing fee,
  • restraining orders do not have a summons, and
  • The police serve these orders.  There is no charge.

What if I cannot afford the fees?

You may be able to have the state pay the cost of filing and serving your case.

Fill out an Affidavit of Indigency pdf icon and a Supplement to the Affidavit of Indigency, if necessary) if.

  • you get public assistance like welfare, or
  • your income is very low. 

When you file your complaint give the form to the clerk at the court.

If the clerk approves the affidavit, make a copy of it.

Give the affidavit to the deputy sheriff or constable who serves the complaint and summons on the other parent. They should not charge you for service.

Keep a copy of the affidavit for your records.

If I file for divorce, do I have to wait until I get my divorce to get child support?

No, you do not have to wait until you get a divorce to get child support.

If you are in the middle of a divorce case, you can file a “Motion for a Temporary Support Order”.

When you file the motion, the court clerk schedules a hearing date.

At the hearing, the judge decides if you need child support while your divorce case is settled. If the judge decides you need child support right away, he or she will make a temporary order of support.

The temporary order lasts until the court changes it or until the divorce case ends.

Read more about divorce.

What if I do not know where the other parent is?

If you do not know where the other parent is, ask the DOR to file a complaint for child support for you.  The DOR can help find the other parent.

Is there someone who can help me fill out my forms?

Yes.

Lawyers can help you

There are lawyers in some Probate and Family Courts who can help you. Ask for the “Lawyer of the Day” or a “Pro Se Facilitator.” 

If your income is low, the lawyers help you for free.

Note:

If you talk to a "lawyer for the day," ask for help with the Affidavit of Indigency.

The Department of Revenue can help you

The Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement (DOR/CSE) takes in your application when you sign up for Child Support.

You can ask the DOR to help you get child support.


Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp
Last updated May 2013


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