How do I file for child support?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed July 2021

A subpoena is a letter that tells a person they must:

  • come to court and testify, or
  • deliver written evidence to a court or other legal proceeding.

A subpoena must be notarized. See What if I have to have something notarized?

Why would I use a subpoena?

You can use a subpoena to:

  • Make someone attend a hearing and
    • testify, or
    • bring written evidence to help your case.

The person you subpoena is a witness. Written evidence you can subpoena are records like: bank statements, photos, phone records, payroll records, and medical records.

  • Make a record keeper deliver records to the court. Records you can subpoena are documents like business records and medical records.

Subpoena to testify and bring written evidence

Subpoena to bring records

Reviewed December 2011

You can file for child support by going to your local Probate and Family Court. Ask the clerk for the forms and fill them out. You do not have to have a lawyer to file for child support.

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services; updated and revised by Jeff Wolf, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2011

You can get child support by filing a Complaint for Support. Only file this complaint if you are married to the other parent. You can also ask for child support when you file any one of these other complaints:

You can file any of these complaints in the Probate and Family court in your area. You can get complaint forms at the clerk's office. If the other parent files any of these complaints in Probate and Family Court, you can ask for child support in

your "answer"

to his case.

If you have been abused you can file for a 209A protective order in your local District Court and get child support that way. The District Court clerk's office should have forms for 209A protective orders. Do not be surprised if the clerk tells you to go to Probate and Family Court. Clerks sometimes do not know that you have the right to ask for child support through a 209A protective order in District Court.

After you file your complaint, you will need to get it served by a sheriff or a constable.

To learn more about how to to get an order for child support read the section Probate and Family Court.

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed August 2021

How much does it cost to get a child support order?

When you file for child support you will file a “complaint”. All complaints except the Complaint for Support of Spouse or Child and the Complaint for Protection from Abuse (G.L. c. 209A) have:

  1. a filing fee and a $15 surcharge.
  2. You will also need a $5 summons.
  3. A deputy sheriff or a constable to serve the complaint and summons usually charge $35-$45. There is no charge to serve a Complaint for Protection from Abuse.

Filing fees for Complaints

The filing fee for a Complaint for Divorce is $200.

The filing fee for a Complaint for Separate Support is $100.

The filing fee for a Complaint to Establish Paternity is $100.

The filing fee for a Complaint for Custody - Support - Pare ting Time is $100.

There is no filing fee, surcharge or summons fee for a Complaint for Support of Spouse or Child or for a Complaint for Protection from Abuse (G.L. c. 209A).

I cannot afford these fees

If you get public assistance or your income is very low, you may be able to get the filing fees "waived". If you cannot afford the fees, fill out an Affidavit of Indigency. Ask the clerk at the desk who gave it to you, to approve it. You will not have to pay the fees and the state will also pay the cost of serving the papers

What if I need child support right away?

We are getting divorced

If you getting divorced, you can file a Motion for Temporary Support. You will get a hearing and the court can make a temporary order of support for your children or you. The temporary order lasts until the court changes the order. The court may change the order when the judge hears your divorce case.

I am filing a 209A Complaint for Protection from Abuse

If you ask for child support through a Complaint for Protection from Abuse, you should be able to get the order fairly quickly.

Other complaints

Getting child support by filing another type of complaint can take longer. You can get child support more quickly by filing a Motion for Temporary Support along with the complaint.

Ask the clerk for a "motion form." There is no extra filing fee for the motion.

  1. If you filed the complaint, you must give the motion to the sheriff or constable to serve with the complaint.
  2. If you have already filed and served your complaint, you can file and serve the Motion for Temporary Support separately.
  3. If you have been served with a complaint, you can file and serve the Motion for Temporary Support separately.

When you file your motion, you need to schedule a date for a hearing about it. Ask the clerk which days the judge hears motions. Pick a date for your hearing and fill in that date on the motion form.

The other parent will have to go to court on the date the motion will be heard by the judge if he wants to argue against it. You also will need to go to the hearing and bring:

If the other parent shows up, the court will ask both of you to meet with a probation officer. This is to see if you can work out an agreement. If you have a 209A protective order, ask to sit in a separate room. You have the legal right to sit in a different room from the other parent. The probation officer can go back and forth between you and try to help you reach an agreement. Do not agree to something that you feel is unfair. You have the right to talk to the judge. The judge will usually decide that the other parent must pay you the amount that the Child Support Guidelines say, or close to it. If you decide to agree to less than that in the meeting with the probation officer, make sure you have really thought about it

After the hearing, the judge will probably write a temporary order of support. The temporary order will last until you get the final order in your divorce or support case.

How do I find out how much the other parent is making?

Here are three ways to show how much the other parent is making:

  1. After you file the complaint, send the other parent a pink financial statement to complete and send back to you. They must send it back to you within a certain number of days.
  2. If you have any of their recent pay check stubs, bring them to your hearing and show the judge.
  3. Subpoena the other parent's wage records.

Financial Statement

After you file the complaint, send the other parent of your child a blank Financial Statement and a letter asking him to fill it out by a certain date. The other parent is supposed to give it to you within 10 days of you asking for it. When they sends it back, you will know what they is making - as long as they tells the truth on the form.

If you don't send a letter asking for the filled out Financial Statement, the other parent is still supposed to give it to you by 45 days after the sheriff serves them the Complaint.

If you file a Motion for Temporary Support, the other parent is supposed to send you the completed Financial Statement at least two days before the hearing date for the motion.

What if the other parent won't fill out the Financial Statement?

The law says that the other parent has to fill out the Financial Statement and send you a copy. They can get in trouble with the court for refusing to do so. If they does not send you the form within the time limit, you can file a motion asking the court to make them send it to you. This is called a Motion to Compel.

Subpoena wage records

If you don't have wage stubs, you can subpoena wage records of the other parent. A subpoena (pronounced “suh-pee-nah”) is an official notice that requires a person to come to court to testify and be a witness. The subpoena can also require the person to bring certain documents.

As long as you have a court case, you can send a subpoena to the other parent's employer. The subpoena says the payroll staff has to come to court and tell the court how much money they pay the other parent. If the payroll staff does not want to come to court, they can send "certified" records of the other parent's wages directly to the court. If the employer ignores the subpoena, the court can issue an arrest warrant for the employer.

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services
Reviewed October, 2009

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