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The Right to Get Child Support

You Have the Right to Financial Support For Your Children

Massachusetts law says that children are entitled to the financial support of both of their parents and that both parents have an obligation to support their children.  When you raise your children by yourself or live apart from your children’s other parent, financial support from the other parent can be extremely important to maintain their health and well-being and ensure that they have proper shelter, food, clothing, and other basic necessities. 

If your children’s other parent refuses or fails to provide adequate financial support for the children, you have the right to go to court to get a child support order that requires the other parent to pay child support. You have the right to have child support paid on a regular basis. The purchase of things for the child by the other parent does not count as “child support.”

You can get a child support order in the Probate and Family Court (the “Probate Court”). In the District Court you can get a child support order as part of a Chapter 209A abuse prevention (“restraining order”) case.

What are the differences between probate courts and other courts in handling child support cases?

Probate courts handle a broad range of family law issues and are better equipped to make child support orders than other courts. Although district courts can make child support orders, probate courts are better equipped to do so because they have personnel and appropriate court forms for these cases. District, superior and probate courts all handle Chapter 209A restraining orders, and each of those courts can include a support order in the restraining order.

What does the Probate Court do and how does it handle cases involving child support?

Probate courts handle many types of family law cases and issues, including child support. They have far-reaching powers in family law cases. They handle family law and child support cases that do not involve domestic violence and those that do.

Probate courts handle divorce, paternity, custody, visitation, and child support cases, as well as abuse cases and many other types of cases involving families and children. Probate Courts deal with support, custody, and visitation in cases involving both married parents and unmarried parents.

Basic Rules For Determining Child Support

How do courts determine the amount of child support to order?

The courts use the “Child Support Guidelines” to figure the amount of child support. These guidelines use a formula to calculate the amount of child support. The formula takes into consideration the “gross” (total before taxes are taken out) weekly income of the person who will be paying child support as well as the number of children, the children’s ages, and the cost of health insurance. The person who pays child support is called the obligor.

The amount of child support that an obligor must pay is based on a certain percentage of his or her gross weekly income. (Note: After considering all the circumstances, a court can increase or decrease the amount of child support by as much as 2%.) The court also takes into account the earnings of the parent who has the child living with him or her if that parent's income is greater than $20,000.

All support orders must require that support be deducted from the obligor’s wages by his or her employer and sent through the Department of Revenue to the receiving parent (called the obligee), unless the obligee receives welfare. An order that requires the employer to take the child support from the wages is called an income assignment or wage assignment. If you receive welfare, then the child support collected by the DOR goes to the state, except for $50 each month, which goes to you.

What if the other parent says he or she can’t pay child support because he or she already has other children to support?

If the other parent already pays child support for children other than yours, that is not an excuse for not supporting your children. However, if there are prior orders requiring the other parent to pay support, and they are actually being paid by the other parent, the court deducts those payments from the other parent’s gross income before applying the child support formula. The place for including this deduction is on the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.

Produced By Community Legal Services And Counseling Center. Used with Permission of Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc.


This information is general legal information that may or may not pertain to your particular circumstance. It does not substitute for a consultation with an attorney regarding your specific situation.

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This content was last modified on: 08/25/2008

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