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How to File a Contempt Case

Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp
Created January, 2012

How do I file a Complaint for Contempt case?

First you must fill out the right forms. You can:

When you file a Complaint for Contempt, you are the “plaintiff”, and the other parent is the “defendant.”

Follow these steps

  1. File the Complaint for Contempt in the same Probate and Family Court that issued the child support order. Find the right Probate and Family Court.
  2. Get the Contempt Summons. A court clerk gives you a Contempt Summons. A Contempt Summons is a court order that tells the defendant:
    • to come to court,
    • when to come to court,
    • the address of the court,
    • to bring a current Financial Statement,
    • to explain why he or she should not be held in contempt, and
    • if the court decides the defendant is in contempt, the court may send him or her to jail. See a sample contempt summons.
  3. Serve the papers. Go to a deputy sheriff or constable and give them:

    • the original summons,
    • your court-approved Affidavit of Indigency, if you have one. The Affidavit of Indigency is for the sheriff. It tells the sheriff the state will pay for service,
    • a copy of the complaint,
    • the Request for a Financial Statement, and
    • the blank pink financial statement form the court gave you when you filed the complaint.

    The deputy sheriff or constable will deliver the papers to the other parent. When the deputy sheriff gives the papers to the other parent, it is "service of process."

    After the sheriff or constable serves the papers, she or he fills out, signs, and dates the section called "Proof of Service". Wait for the sheriff or constable to return the original summons to you. This is proof that the other parent got the documents telling her or him about the case.

  4. Make a "return of service". Make a copy of the signed original Contempt Summons and return the original to the court clerk. This is called making "return of service." Bring the signed summons back to court as soon as you get it from the sheriff or constable.
  5. Fill out a Financial Statement. The court may require you to file a Financial Statement. You must tell the truth about all your income and expenses. Bring your Financial Statement to the court hearing.
  6. Go to court on the day scheduled for the hearing.

How much does it cost to file a Complaint for Contempt?

There is no filing fee for the Complaint of Contempt.

The Contempt Summons that you serve on the other parent costs $5.00.

Deputy sheriffs charge $35.00 to $40.00 to serve the complaint and summons.

What if I do not have money for the fees?

If you get public assistance or if your income is very low, you may not have to pay the fees. You can fill out a court form called an Affidavit of Indigency. If the court approves the form, the state pays the fees.

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