Leonardo Angiulo: How to File for Child Support
Monday, September 10, 2012
If the custodial parent wants a child support order the first step is to file a complaint with the Probate and Family Court Department that has jurisdiction over the case. Where to file and what to ask for depends, as always, on the facts of the case and the right lawyer can answer all of those questions for you. Once those preliminary questions are answered, the next step is to draft the complaint and file it.
The question of who has to pay child support is a short question with a long answer. Typically, the parent with whom the child does not reside will have an obligation to provide monetary contribution to the household housing and feeding that child. The logic goes that your child is your responsibility no matter who they are living with. If there is a question of paternity, that issue must be presented and fully litigated. If the support order is issued without a party raising the question of parentage, the question will be deemed waived in all future proceedings.
There are two ways by which a support order can be determined. First, two people can agree on a sum that they believe is fair and in the best interests of the child. They would present that to the court who can issue that as an order. On the other hand, there are guidelines issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, available here that are designed to provide consistency in child support orders. In these guidelines, specific definitions of income are established and formulas for calculating what the court deems fair are provided.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, these guidelines have taken most of the guesswork out of support orders. In fact, by going to the Massachusetts Probate Court Forms website here you can actually select the child support guidelines worksheet in this section and literally fill in the blanks to get an estimate of what the court would order in your case. These formulaic calculations can be misleading; however, because like all things in the law, the final calculation of child support is highly fact specific and getting advice tailored to your case is very important.
While this may appear to be easy, the fact is that there are several issues that can affect the ultimate amount of the order. First, the question of what a person's income is may not be what you think. Just because they have a few very good months in commission at their sales job does not mean you fix the support order to those high numbers. Similarly, just because you have no work on the books does not mean the court won't attribute some income to you.
No matter what the issues are in your case, at some point, there will be a court date and the court will be ready for you. It would be best if you were ready too. This ultimately means having an up to date financial statement and, if possible, a guidelines worksheet ready before you walk into the courthouse. Of course, being prepared for your hearing is something else the right attorney can help you with.
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