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You can file for separate support if you're married and your spouse has failed to support you, has deserted you, you and your spouse are living apart for “justifiable cause”, or you and your spouse have “justifiable cause” to live apart, but are still living together. “Justifiable cause” includes things like abuse, adultery, and desertion.
The forms that must be filed are:
In addition, if you have children with your spouse:
If you have an attorney:
Please note: Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 209 section 32F, the court cannot order child custody or the transfer or sale of the home you own. However, if you file under this law, you should file a Complaint for Separate Support Pursuant to G. L. c. 209, § 32F (CJ-D 107). This form would be filed instead of the Complaint for Separate Support (CJ-D 102).
There are also fees associated with separate support procedures. In addition to the listed fees, you may also be responsible for fees due to your local sheriff or constable for service. This will depend on your local Family and Probate Court.
Local courts differ on the type of payments (cash, check, credit card, etc.) that they will accept. Call your court to find out the accepted methods of payment in that location.
If you believe you cannot pay the filing fee because you are indigent, you may request that the fee be waived. This means that you would not have to pay the fee.
If you cannot afford court fees, you need to qualify under the federal poverty income guidelines and file an Affidavit of Indigency. You can find information on the requirements and process at Indigency (waiver of court fees). This explains your financial situation to the court, so the court can decide whether or not you will need to pay your own fees.
You can file in the Probate and Family Court in the county where either you or your spouse lives, but if you left the home you lived in as a couple, you must file in the county where your spouse lives. See our contact information to find your local Probate and Family Court.
After you have filed, you need to let your spouse know that you have filed. To do this, you have to arrange for them to be served with a copy of the complaint that you filed, “notice” and a “domestic relations summons”. These are papers that tell your spouse what has happened and what will happen next. The court will give you the notice and summons when you file your papers, but you need to arrange to have the papers “served.” See Service of process of domestic relations complaints in Probate and Family Court for more information.
The judge will read through your papers and make a decision. She may ask you questions in court. The judge will look at your income, your spouse’s income, the number of people you are supporting, and what expenses you have. She will use the Child Support Guidelines to help reach her decision. The judge can order support for you or your child, as well as medical support for you or your child. The judge can also order the transfer or sale of a house you or your spouse owns.
This summary on this site is about the most common type of separate support, per Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 209, section 32.
There is another law that also allows for separate support: Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 209, section 32F. Under this law, the court cannot order child custody or the transfer or sale of the home you own. If you file under this law, you should file Complaint for Separate Support Pursuant to G. L. c. 209, § 32F (CJ-D 107) instead of Complaint for separate support (CJ-D 102). See the Downloads section for these forms.