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Out-of-state Questions

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services; updated and revised by Jeff Wolf, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed October, 2009

I have a child support order from another state. How can I make sure the order works in Massachusetts?

You must make sure the child support order from the other state is "certified" in Massachusetts. Call the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) and give them a copy of the order and request certification. DOR may have you fill out paperwork or request paperwork related to your child support records from the state where it was issued. Once the order is certified in Massachusetts, DOR can help you with wage assignment collection and other services.

What happens if the other parent now lives in another state and I need to enforce or change the Massachusetts order?

There is a federal law called the "Uniform Interstate Family Support Act" (UIFSA) that says that states have to work together to make sure parents get court-ordered child support.

There are two ways that you can get your order enforced in another state:

  1. You can file a Complaint for Contempt or Complaint for Modification in Massachusetts and then hire a constable or other "process server" in the other parent's state to serve it on him. Hopefully, the other parent will show up at the hearing.
  2. You can call the Customer Service Bureau at the Department of Revenue and ask them to help you get the order enforced in the other state. If you don't think that the other parent will show up at a hearing in Massachusetts, this may be the better choice. You will have to fill out a long form with information about the other parent and your current order. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) will then send an order to the parent's employer in the other state telling him or her to take money out of the parent's pay check and send it to DOR. If DOR does not have enough information about the other parent or the employer to do this, DOR will contact the child support agency in the other parent's state and ask them to enforce or modify the Massachusetts order. This process can take up to six months, but it can work very well.

I already have a child support order in Massachusetts but I have moved to another state.  Is my order still good?

Yes. If your order was good (was "in effect") in Massachusetts when you left, the order will continue to be in effect until a court changes it. Give the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) your new contact information so they can keep sending your support payments to you. If you fled Massachusetts because of abuse and you do not want the other parent to know where you are, tell DOR that you need to keep your address secret and ask them to be sure your address does not appear on any court forms.

If I wasn't getting child support and I moved out of Massachusetts, how do I get it now?

All fifty states have child support agencies. They work with each other to enforce child support orders. But each state handles child support orders a little differently.

You may be able to file for child support in your new state. Or you may be able to file in Massachusetts. It depends on:

  • how long you have been out of Massachusetts;
  • whether there is still an open case in Massachusetts; and
  • whether the other parent still lives in Massachusetts.

Some states are better than others at keeping abused parents' addresses secret. Call a local battered women's organization where you live now for information on your new state's child support enforcement practices.

A lawyer can help you figure out where to file your case. Call the legal services program in your new state to see if you qualify for free legal help. You can also call the legal services program where you used to live in Massachusetts to see if they can give you advice about where to file your case.

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