Child support orders if one parent lives outside of Massachusetts

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Even if one parent lives outside of Massachusetts, they still must pay child support if there is an order. This article answers some of the questions that come up when one parent lives out of state.

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

Make sure the child support order from the other state is "certified" in Massachusetts. Call the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR). 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.

The other parent now lives in another state. How do I enforce or change the Massachusetts child support order?

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

There are two ways to get your order enforced in another state:

  1. File a Complaint for Contempt or Complaint for Modification in Massachusetts. Then hire a constable or other "process server" in the other parent's state to serve it on them. Hopefully, the other parent will show up at the hearing.
  2. Call the Customer Service Bureau at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR). Ask them to help you get the order enforced in the other state. If you think the other parent will not show up at a hearing in Massachusetts, this may be the better choice. 
    1. You will have to fill out a long form with information about the other parent and your current order. DOR will then send an order to the parent's employer in the other state telling them to take money out of the parent's pay check and send it to DOR. 
    2. 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. DOR will ask them to enforce or modify the Massachusetts order. 
    3. This process can take up to six months, but it can work 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 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. Ask DOR to make sure your address does not appear on any court forms.


The other parent can ask the court to lower the payment if you move out of state. They ask with a Request to Modify the Support Order. The other parent must give you notice when they ask. You can oppose their request.

The court may lower the support, especially if the other parent must pay more money than before to stay in touch with your child. Only a judge can decide to lower the child support amount.

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

All 50 states have child support agencies. They work together to enforce child support orders. But each state handles child support orders 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.

You can contact the Massachusetts Court Service Center for more information about filing in Massachusetts. Or contact a legal aid program in your new state.

Some states are better than others at keeping abused parents' addresses secret. If there has been domestic abuse, contact a domestic violence organization where you live now for information on your new state's child support enforcement practices.


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