Questions And Answers About Child Support
Can I receive child support even if I am not married to the other parent?
Yes. The only difference is the kind of case you would file in court to ask for child support. If you are married to the
child's parent, you could file a complaint for divorce or a complaint for support. If you are not married to the child's
parent, you could file a complaint to establish paternity or a complaint for support under Chapter 209C. Probate
courts have printed forms for each of these kinds of complaints. You can find the paternity forms on court websites,
such as Link to Middlesex Probate Court and Link to Suffolk Probate Court.
Can I get a child support order for children over 18?
Yes. The court can make orders for support, maintenance, and education for children between 18 and 21, if they live
with their parent and are mainly dependent on that parent for their maintenance. The court can also make these
orders for 21 and 22 year olds if they live with their parent and are mainly dependent on that parent for their
maintenance and if they are in school, except for school beyond college.
What is the connection between child support and visitation?
As a general rule, there is no connection between paying child support and visitation rights. Child support is usually
determined by applying the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. As a general rule, child support payments and
visitation rights are not connected. Visitation rights are granted where it is in the best interest of the child for there
to be visitation.
Paying child support does not automatically entitle the person paying support to have visitation rights with the child.
Failure to pay child support will not automatically stop visitation rights.
Similarly, the parent who visits does not, for that reason alone, pay child support. The parent who does not visit is
not relieved of the duty to pay child support. The duty to pay child support is based on the child support guidelines
without referring to visitation.
What do I need to file in court to get a child support order?
To start the process of getting a child support order you must file a complaint on a printed form provided by the
probate court. The kinds of complaints you can file include:
If you are married to the other party:
Complaint for Divorce
If you are married and need child support but do not want to seek a divorce, then one of the two other marital action
complaints may be suitable:
Complaint for Separate Support
Complaint for Support, General Laws, chapter 209, section 32F
If you are not married to the other parent, then to get a child support order you would need to file one of the
complaints used when the parties are not married to each other:
Complaint to Establish Paternity, General Laws, chapter 209C
Complaint for Support, Custody, Visitation pursuant to General Laws, chapter 209C
You can also request child support on a Chapter 209A Abuse Prevention Complaint.
You will also need to file a financial statement, an official court form that is extremely important and serious. On
your financial statement you put your income, expenses, assets, bank accounts and debts. Because you sign the
financial statement under penalties of perjury, you can be punished by the court for making false statements on
the statement. You will need to file a financial statement at each hearing when you ask for support.
You must also arrange to have the complaint and summons served by a deputy sheriff or constable; fill out, file,
and serve a written Motion for a Temporary Support Order; and schedule a hearing where you present the Motion
to the court.
Are there court costs involved in getting a child support order, and what if I cannot afford them?
The complaint for Divorce and the Complaint for Separate Support (see page 11) have filing fees; the other
complaints do not. There is a fee to be paid to a deputy sheriff or other officials for serving complaints, summons
and other court papers. If you receive public assistance or if your income is very low, you may be eligible to have the filing
fees waived and to have the state pay the cost of serving the papers. In order to do so, you fill out a form called an Affidavit
of Indigency and have it approved by the appropriate court personnel, usually an assistant register of probate.
If I file for divorce, do I have to wait until I get my divorce for the court to order child support?
No. If you have filed a divorce case, you can file a Motion for a Temporary Support Order and have a hearing where
the court makes a temporary order of support for your children or you. The temporary order remains in effect until
changed by the court or until the divorce case is heard by the court.
How are child support payments collected?
The law requires that child support payments be made to the Department of Revenue (DOR) Child Support
Enforcement Division. The DOR then sends the child support to you. The law also requires that child support be paid by
the obligor's employer from the obligor's paycheck. This is called income assignment. When you get a child support order
at the Probate Court, you fill out and turn in a DOR Child Support Enforcement Services Application Form to the DOR office
at the court.
What can I do if I get a child support order and the other parent disobeys the order by not paying?
You can file a Complaint for Contempt, which is a legal case that asks the court to force the disobedient person to
obey a court order, such as a child support order, by holding him or her in “contempt of court.” The summons that the
court issues in a contempt case requires the person alleged to be in violation of an order to appear in court at a particular
time and show the court why he or she should not be held in contempt of court.
The court can force a person whom it has held in contempt of court to obey the order by ordering him or her pay the
child support that has gone unpaid (either all at once or in regular installments), by ordering him or her to
participate in court-monitored job search (if he or she claims to have been unable to pay the child support because of
being unemployed), or by ordering the person to be put in jail. There is a court form for the Complaint for Contempt.
Produced By Community Legal Services And Counseling Center. Used with Permission of Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc. www.neighborhoodlaw.org.
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This content was last modified on: 08/25/2008