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Streamlining the Child Support Modification Process in Massachusetts

Child Support letters with gavel and cash

In May 2013, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court expanded Standing Order 3-11, which streamlines the child support modification process in Massachusetts. Through this Standing Order, parents can now complete more user-friendly forms to file for a child support modification with the Probate and Family Court, and also obtain a faster court date to obtain some relief.

This project was originally initiated in 2011 in Bristol County through a federal grant. The project used Bristol County as a test county for the streamlined process. The Probate and Family Court worked together with the Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement Division to test this program.

As part of the pilot project, the Probate and Family Court and DOR developed a one-page form that contained the Complaint for Modification as well as the Motion for Temporary Orders. This form is more user-friendly than the standard court forms. In addition to the more user-friendly forms, litigants are allowed to complete service of the summons and complaint by first class mail, rather than service by a sheriff or constable. Additionally, litigants typically obtained a faster court date on these modifications than they would have previously.

As part of the project, three private attorneys were hired by the Probate and Family Court and DOR to serve as Project Coordinators to oversee the effectiveness of the program. Talia Simonds, Esq., of Amaral & Associates, P.C., which has offices in Winthrop and Boston, was one of those attorneys.

Ultimately the project was found to be widely successful. As a result the Probate and Family Court has approved the project to run state-wide throughout Massachusetts. The streamlined modification process will be phased into the different divisions of the Probate and Family Court throughout 2013, as follows:

These procedures, as revised, will remain in effect in the Bristol Division.

As of May 15, 2013, these procedures will be implemented in the Barnstable Division.

As of July 1, 2013, these procedures will be implemented in the Hampshire and Norfolk Divisions.

As of August 1, 2013, these procedures will be implemented in the Dukes, Franklin, Nantucket and Plymouth Divisions.

As of September 3, 2013, these procedures will be implemented in the Berkshire, Middlesex, and Worcester Divisions.

As of October 1, 2013, these procedures will be implemented in the Essex and Hampden Divisions.

As of November 1, 2013, these procedures will be implemented in the Suffolk Division.

Thus, by November 2013 the streamlined child support modification process will be in effect statewide.

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