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How do I get a Child Support Order if I am not married to the other parent?

Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp
Last updated May 2013

How do I start?

You must fill out the right forms.

You can:

Also, the Department of Revenue can prepare the court forms and file them for you. See The Department of Revenue.

Remember

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. Read more about Domestic Violence and Child Support.

What is the right form for me?

If you are not married and you need child support, file a Complaint to Establish Paternity pdf icon or a Complaint for Support, Custody, Visitation pdf icon.

File a Complaint to Establish Paternity if:

  • the other parent has not signed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form. The form says that the other parent agrees that they are the biological father of your child, and
  • a court has not made a judgment saying who the father is.

File a Complaint for Support, Custody, Visitation if:

  • the other parent has signed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form, or
  • a court has made a judgment saying who the father is.

Where do I file my case?

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

The county you file in depends on the kind of case you are filing.

If you are filing a Complaint to Establish Paternity or a Complaint for Support-Custody-Visitation, you must file it in the county where the child lives.

Follow these steps

  1. Serve the papers. Take the forms to the court clerk. The clerk will give you a “Domestic Relations Summons.” This court document tells the other parent you have filed a case in court. It gives a date for the parent to answer. The summons also tells the other parent that the court can make a decision even if or he or she does not come to court.

    Take the summons and a copy of all the papers that you filed to a 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.

    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 is paid for serving the summons. When the deputy sheriff gives the papers to the other parent, it is called "service of process."

    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 gives the original summons back to you. The sheriff or constable fills out the section of the summons called the "Proof of Service".

  2. Make a "return of service." Bring the complete Domestic Relations Summons back to the court clerk. This is called making "return of service." Make a copy of the signed original summons for your records.
  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. You must serve the other parent with a copy of your motion that says when and where the hearing is. 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 Complaint to Establish Paternity.
  4. Prepare and file the financial papers. Fill out a Financial Statement. The Financial Statement is an 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.
  5. Go to the hearing on the scheduled court date.

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 request a child support order on a Chapter 209A Complaint for Abuse Prevention Order pdf icon("restraining order") form, page 1 and page 2. If you have been abused filling out this form helps you get child support quickly. If you have financial support, it might be easier to separate from an abusive person.

You can file a 209A case in a District Court or Boston Municipal Court as well as in a Probate and Family Court.

Read How to Ask for a Child Support Order in a 209A Restraining Order Case.

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

Yes. There are costs for filing complaint forms about child support. There are different fees for different forms.

The filing fee for a Complaint to Establish Paternity pdf icon is $115.00 (including a $15.00 surcharge).

The filing fee for a Complaint for Support, Custody, Visitation pdf icon is $115.00 (including a $15.00 surcharge).

There is no filing fee for a Chapter 209A Complaint for Abuse Prevention Order pdf icon ("restraining order") page 1 or page 2.

The blank summons that you fill out and serve on the other parent costs $5.00. 209A complaints do not need a summons.

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

The police serve 209A orders. There is no charge.

What if I do not have money to pay the fees?

You may not have to pay the filing fee and be able to have the state pay the cost of serving the papers.

If

  • You get public assistance like welfare, or
  • Your income is very low,

you can fill out a form called an Affidavit of Indigency pdf icon. Give the form to the clerk at when you file your complaint. If the clerk approves the affidavit, give the affidavit to the person who serves the papers to the other parent. Keep a copy of the affidavit for your records.

 

If I file a Complaint to Establish Paternity or a Complaint for Support, Custody, or Visitation, do I have to wait until the case is over for the court to order child support?

Not necessarily.

If you file a Complaint and

  • the case has a tough issue like custody or visitation that will take a while to decide, and
  • it has already been decided who the father is,

then you can file a Motion for a Temporary Support order.

When you file the motion, the court clerk sets a hearing date. At the hearing, the court decides if you need child support while your case goes on. If the court decides you need child support right away, the judge will make a temporary order of support.

The temporary order lasts until the court changes it or until the judge decides about the paternity or custody case.

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

Some Probate and Family Courts have lawyers who can help you. These lawyers are usually called the "Lawyer for the Day."

Lawyers for the Day can:

  • provide basic legal information,
  • talk to you about how the court handles child support cases, and
  • help you to fill out the forms.

Lawyers for the Day do not go with you into the courtroom and speak for you.

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 with Child Support

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.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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