CHILD SUPPORT IN MASSACHUSETTS
What Is Child Support?
Child support is a court-ordered payment, typically made by a non-custodial parent, to support one’s minor child. Generally, the parent who the child lives with most of the time is called the “custodial parent,” and the other parent is called the “non-custodial parent.” Most often, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. Child support is an amount paid by one parent to another parent to make sure that their child is taken care of. In other words, child support is money a parent may need to pay if their child does not live with them.
What Does Child Support Cover?
Because the court cares about ensuring that a child has sufficient resources to promote his or her best interests, child support is intended to cover a broad range of expenses. As such, it is not merely for basic necessities such as food or clothing. Rather, child support payments may be used for things such as medical costs, school fees, extracurricular activities such as sports or music lessons, transportation costs, and entertainment.
How Can I Get Child Support For My Child?
To get a child support order for your child, you need to file a complaint with the court. If you are married and seeking a divorce, you need to file your complaint where you and your spouse last lived together if at least one of you continues to reside in that county. However, if you have both moved away from that county, then you may file your complaint in the county where either you or your spouse currently lives.
On the other hand, if you are not married to the other parent of your child and if the other parent has not signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity or been determined by the court to be the parent of the child, you need to file a complaint to Establish Paternity. If you are not married but paternity has already been legally established, you need to file a complaint for Support, Custody, and Visitation.
What Happens After A Complaint Is Filed?
When you file your complaint with the court, you will be given a summons. At this point, you should make copies for 1) your complaint and 2) the summons. You will then need to put the other parent on notice by serving them with the complaint and summons through “Service of Process.” Usually you need to hire a Deputy Sheriff or Constable to serve the other parent of your child, which, in this case, is also known as the defendant. The Constable or Deputy Sheriff will do two things. First, he or she will deliver the complaint and summons to the defendant. Second, he or she will prove that the complaint and summons was delivered by signing the back of the summons and explaining the manner in which the defendant was served. This is what is referred to as “Return of Service.” The Constable or Deputy Sheriff will return this to you by mail. Once this is completed, the original summons (not a copy) must be filed with the court. Because it is your responsibility as the petitioner for child support to make sure that the original summons is filed, it is important to check with the Constable or Deputy Sheriff to see whether he or she will file it for you or if you must file it with the court yourself.
Once the defendant is served with the complaint and summons, he or she will need to answer it within a certain amount of time as specified by the summons. Generally an answer needs to be filed with the court within twenty days of receiving the complaint and summons. Although the defendant does not need to file an answer, he or she is likely to because it is an opportunity for them to tell their side of the story. If the defendant files an answer with the court, he or she will need to deliver it to you and include a “Certificate of Service,” which is generally done by mail. Additionally, if the defendant wants the court to make other or different orders than the ones included in the original complaint and summons, he or she may file a counter-complaint as part of the answer.
What If I Need Child Support Quickly?
If you cannot wait what is likely to be a few months for a child support hearing, you may file a motion for temporary orders at the court. When filing a motion for temporary orders, you should ask the clerk or court personnel for a hearing date on your motion, and then mail a copy of the motion and notice of the hearing date to the other parent.
It is important to keep in mind that throughout this process, and generally any time that you have a court hearing about money, each parent must file a financial statement. Put simply, a financial statement is a court form that requires each parent to list his or her income, expenses, and debts.
How Much Child Support Will I Get?
In determining how much child support to award you, the court will use what are known as the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. Factors that go into deciding how much child support must be paid include the income, expenses, and resources of each party.
How Can the Law Office of Thomas R. Davis Help You?
Because there are so many steps that need to be taken to get child support, it may be in your best interest to contact an attorney to learn more about the options available to ensure that the rights of your child and you are protected. If your goal is to g
et what you are entitled to, it is imperative to have a strong advocate by your side. Our law office is dedicated to helping individuals and families get through the child support process as successfully and smoothly as possible.
If you have any questions regarding child support, call us any time at (617) 431-3887 for a free, no obligation attorney consultation.
We take most divorce and family law cases on an income-driven basis so that inability to pay for an attorney does not hold you back. We are here to provide you with the quality representation that you deserve.