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Child support and your safety

Find answers to common questions that may help you decide whether applying for our child support will be safe for you and your child and resources for anyone affected by domestic violence.

Safety and applying for child support

Is it safe for me to apply for child support?

You are in the best position to decide whether applying for child support will be safe for you and your child. If you are not sure if child support services will be safe for you, before you submit an application, please call us at 1-800-332-2733, or email us at csesafety@dor.state.ma.us.

What happens after I submit my application?

The other parent will receive a letter from DOR letting him or her know that we have opened a case to get or enforce a child support order.

What happens if I do not have a child support order?

  • We will file a court action in the county where you or the child lives. You and the other parent will be sent a letter telling you when to come to court.
  • Most court documents are available to the public.
  • The other parent will get copies of court documents which will include your address and other personal information unless the court agrees to keep it confidential. You will be asked to fill out documents with information about your finances and your employer.

Will I have to see the other parent in court?

Yes. If a hearing is scheduled and both parents come to court, you will see the other parent in court. While you can’t request separate court dates, you can ask to talk with DOR staff without the other parent present.

Is there a way to keep my address off of the court documents?

Yes, but you have to get permission from the court if you want your address or other information to be removed from court documents. DOR can help with this process which is called impoundment. If you file court documents yourself, you may have to seek impoundment on your own. Even if your address was impounded by a court in a restraining order case, you still need to impound it in any other court cases that you are involved in.

What happens if paternity (declaring the child’s legal father) has not been established?

We will file an action in court to establish paternity and both you and the other parent may have to appear in court. Also, paternity tests may be required and you, the child and the other parent will be tested. Unlike the court hearing, testing appointments for you and the other parent can be scheduled on different days.

Will DOR give the other parent my personal information?

No.  We can’t give the other parent your personal information just because the parent asks us for it. This includes your address, Social Security number, and your children’s Social Security numbers or other personal information.     

Can DOR make sure the other parent won’t get my personal information?

No. We can’t make sure that your personal information will stay completely private. We are required to give your personal information to courts, other Massachusetts agencies, the other parent’s employer, and sometimes child support agencies in other states. The other parent may then be able to find your information.

Will my address be on health insurance documents?

  • If the court orders the other parent to provide health insurance coverage for you or your child, we will send a form to the other parent’s employer that has your address on it. The other parent may see this form.
  • If the other parent provides health insurance coverage, the other parent will have access to information about your child’s medical providers. If you have asked the court for impoundment, that protects only your information on court documents. It doesn’t apply to health insurance documents.
  • Remember: If you have given your information to other state agencies or put it on the internet (for example, on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter) the other parent may be able to find it.

Will DOR’s attorneys represent me?

No. DOR attorneys represent DOR and do not represent either parent.

Will the Court order that the other parent gets to see our child? 

While parenting time is not part of a child support case, it is possible that the other parent will file papers to ask for parenting time or custody when asked to pay child support. DOR cannot help with parenting time or custody or provide legal advice. Parents who are concerned about how a child support order may affect parenting time or custody should seek the advice of an attorney.

How will I get my child support payments?

All child support payments go through DOR. DOR sends payments to the custodial parent using direct deposit or a debit card or to the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) if the family is receiving cash assistance. Parents are not allowed to exchange payments directly.

Will DOR tell me in advance before they take any action to enforce my child support order?

No. Most enforcement occurs outside of court and happens without notice to the custodial parent. When DOR is collecting a child support order, we take various enforcement actions if the total amount due is not paid on time and in full. Some examples of these actions are increasing the amount withheld from the parent’s pay by an extra 25%, seizing bank accounts, suspending driver’s or professional licenses, intercepting federal and state tax refunds, and others.

 

Safety resources

We encourage anyone affected in any way by domestic violence to consider the resources available in Massachusetts and nationwide.

If you are in immediate danger call 9-1-1 for the police to come to your aid.

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