Published On: Wed, Oct 19th, 2016

Child Support in Massachusetts, Part 1: Getting an Order and Managing Payments

Creating a child support plan is a top concern for most separated or divorced parents in Massachusetts.

Figuring out your child support responsibilities and learning how the payment process works can help you create a plan that is best for your child. The Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division (DOR/CSE) and the Massachusetts Court System provide resources to help you navigate the child support process in the state.

In this first part of a 2-post blog series on child support, we’ll cover how to arrange child support orders, make payments, and receive payments.

Arranging Child Support

To obtain a child support order, file a request (called a complaint) with the local Probate and Family Court. You can file a complaint for child support on your own or get help from DOR/CSE to guide you through the process. The type of complaint you file depends on the parents’ relationship.

There are a few ways you can file to get help from DOR/CSE:

If you choose to file on your own without DOR/CSE, you still need to submit a copy of your child support order by mail or in person to DOR/CSE following the steps above.

Depending on the relationship between the parents, you may need to file some additional forms.

In most cases, to file a complaint with the Probate and Family Court, you’ll have to pay:

  • A $100 filing fee (or $200 for divorce)
  • A $15 surcharge
  • A $5 summons
  • Sheriff or constable fees to serve the other parent

There are no filing fees for the child support process if the complaint is filed by DOR/CSE.

Once you’ve submitted your forms and any other necessary information, there will be a court hearing where a judge will decide whether to grant a child support order, and if so, how much child support will be ordered and how each parent will make and receive payments. You can use the child support guidelines worksheet, child support guidelines instructions, and the child support guidelines chart to estimate the payment amounts.

Paying Child Support

If you’re the parent who will be paying child support, you’ll submit your payments on a weekly or monthly basis depending on the payment schedule outlined in your court order. If you’re the parent required to make payments through DOR/CSE, you’ll pay in 1 of 2 ways.

  • Wage Assignment — Your employer will deduct funds from your paycheck and forward money to DOR/CSE. It may take several weeks for your employer to get wage assignment information after your child support order is issued, so you’ll need to make payments directly to DOR/CSE yourself until the wage assignment process takes effect.
  • Directly to DOR/CSE — You should submit payments directly to DOR/CSE. Never make a payment directly to the other parent. DOR/CSE’s records won’t show a payment has been made, and may take action against you to enforce the order. There are 4 ways to submit payments to DOR/CSE.

Receiving Child Support

If you’re the parent who will be receiving child support, DOR/CSE provides information about receiving payments, including how to make sure you’ve received all your child support. There are 2 ways you can receive child support.

  • Direct Deposit — DOR/CSE recommends that you sign up for direct deposit with their Child Support Case Manager to receive your payments. You can also use the Case Manager to check your payment history and update your personal information.
  • Massachusetts Debit Card — You can receive child support payments on a Massachusetts debit card, which can be used at ATMs and anywhere MasterCard is accepted.

In some cases, it can take several weeks to receive the first child support payment because DOR/CSE has to record each incoming payment.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our child support series to learn about changing the terms of a child support order and enforcement.

Do you have questions about getting a child support order and managing payments? Comment below or tweet @MassGov.

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