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Child support and domestic violence

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated October, 2009

In Massachusetts there are child support laws to make sure that parents who do not live together share the cost of raising their children. Massachusetts expects parents who do not live with their children to meet their share of the cost by paying child support.  Sometimes a child lives part-time with one parent and part-time with the other parent. In these cases, the parent who lives with the child for less time usually pays child support to the other parent. The parent paying child support usually also pays for the child's health insurance.

Child support helps pay for your child's:

Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp
Last Updated January, 2012
  1. Can I get child support if I am staying in a shelter for battered women?
  2. How can I file for child support if I don't feel safe disclosing my address on court papers?
  3. How does the other parent send me child support if I am staying in a shelter for battered women or if my address has been kept secret in court proceedings?
  4. Will the DOR keep my address secret?
  5. If I want my Chapter 209A Restraining Order to include a child support order, what must I do?
  6. If I go to court to get a child support order, can the abuser use the court hearing to ask the court for custody or visitation rights?
  7. If I go to court and am sent to the Family Service Office (Probation Department), will I have to meet face-to-face with my abuser?

 

Can I get child support if I am staying in a shelter for battered women?

Yes. However, you will need to talk to the staff at your shelter to see if their safety policies permit you to receive child support checks at the shelter's post office box, or whether you need to set up your own post office box or arrange to have the child support sent to a third person. Safety planning is important in choosing how you arrange to receive child support.

 

How can I file for child support if I don't feel safe disclosing my address on court papers?

When you file a 209A case, you put your address on Plaintiff's Confidential Information Form.  You don't put it on the complaint and it doesn't go on court papers or orders.  The Confidential Information Form is kept separate from the court papers.  No one can look at the form without your permission or the corut's permission.

 

How does the other parent send me child support if I am staying in a shelter for battered women or if my address has been kept secret in court proceedings?

The law requires that child support payments be made payable to the DOR Child Support Enforcement Division. The DOR then sends the child support to you. Do not forget, the law also requires that child support be paid by the obligor's employer, so in most cases the child support is sent by the obligor's employer to the DOR and then to you, or to the Department of Transitional Assistance if you are on welfare.

 

Will the DOR keep my address secret?

Yes. The information collected by the DOR is not public information. If disclosure of your personal information would place you or your family at risk of physical or emotional harm, the DOR will take additional steps to safeguard your information. You can request that additional safeguards be taken to protect your personal information when you fill out the DOR Child Support Application Form, Section 5: Safety Issues.

 

If I want my Chapter 209A Restraining Order to include a child support order, what must I do?

You must check the box on the complaint that asks for child support and you must ask the judge to have your order say that child support will be decided at the next hearing. See How do I ask for child support in a 209A restraining order case?

 

If I go to court to get a child support order, can the abuser use the court hearing to ask the court for custody or visitation rights?

Yes, but it is important to remember that each party must follow the court rules. The rules require each party to give the other proper notice of what issues the court will be dealing with, whether it is child support, custody, or visitation. The rules require that notice of the hearing be given, if by mail, at least 10 days before the hearing. Therefore, if the other party does not send you 10 days written notice of the request for visitation or custody, the court will not hear the request that day and you do not have to discuss it or talk about it.

 

If I go to court and am sent to the Family Service Office (Probation Department), will I have to meet face-to-face with my abuser?

No. You will not be required to meet with the Family Service Officer and the abusive person at the same time. The Family Service Office rules say that trying to negotiate an agreement may be inappropriate where there are power differences or the presence of intimidation. If you have a restraining order, be sure to tell the FSO.

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