Who can get child support?
How long does child support last?
How much child support might I get?
Can I modify my child support order?
Which parent has to provide health care coverage for the child?
Where can I find help to enforce my child support order?
You can seek a child support order if you are raising your child and living separately from the other parent. It does not matter whether you are married or unmarried.1
If you are the child’s mother and married to the child’s father, it is assumed (“presumed”) that your husband is the child’s father.2 However, if you are unmarried before the court can issue a child support order, the father’s paternity (legal fatherhood) has to be established. The father and mother can voluntarily acknowledge paternity by signing and filing an acknowledgment of parentage in front of a notary public or at the hospital at birth.3 Or, either parent can file a paternity petition in court, and the judge can order genetic testing and establish paternity through that process.4
Child support can be filed as part of a divorce, separation, custody, or paternity proceeding, or it can be filed as a separate action. You can also receive a temporary child support order as part of a 209A abuse prevention order.5
1 M.G.L. 209C § 9; M.G.L. 208 § 28; M.G.L. 209 § 37
2 M.G.L. 209C § 6(a)
3 M.G.L. 209C § 11
4 M.G.L. 209C §§ 2; 17
5 M.G.L. 209A § 3(e)
A parent is generally obligated to support his/her child until s/he turns 18. However, child support can be extended if the young adult is living with a parent, and:
- s/he is younger than 21 and is primarily dependent upon that parent; or
- s/he is between 21 and 23 years old and primarily dependent on that parent because s/he is enrolled in an undergraduate educational program.1
1 M.G.L. 209C § 9; M.G.L. 208 § 28
Child support payments are calculated according to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, available on the Massachusetts government website. It is assumed that the order amount based on these guidelines is appropriate. A parent, however, could try to convince the judge that it is in the child’s best interests for this amount to be different. If s/he can do that, the judge can increase or decrease the amount of child support.1
1 M.G.L. 209 § 9(c); M.G.L. 208 § 28; M.G.L. 209 § 37
Generally speaking, once there’s a final child support order, you can file for an adjustment or modification if there are significant changes in the child’s needs or the financial capacity of either parent.
If you receive child support enforcement services through the state, they will automatically review the order at least every three years to account for the increase in the cost of living.1
You can find more information on requesting changes to your child support order on the Mass.gov webpage.
1 M.G.L. 119A § 3B
If a judge makes a child support order, the judge will also require that either parent provide health care coverage for the child if the coverage is available for the child and is offered at a reasonable cost. A “reasonable cost” is not more than five percent of the parent’s gross income. The judge can also order that the other parent has to contribute to the cost of the health care coverage and to any medical expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance.
If the child is enrolled in MassHealth or a similar program in another state, then the parent will be required to keep that child enrolled in the program for as long as the child is eligible. If private insurance is available for the child, in addition to MassHealth, then the judge could order that either parent enroll the child in the private insurance if:
- the private insurance is available at a reasonable cost;
- enrollment in private insurance is in the best interests of the child; and
- the enrollment does not create an undue hardship for the parents.1
1 M.G.L. 208 § 28; M.G.L. 209 § 37; M.G.L. 209C § 9
Once there’s an order in place, the Massachusetts Child Support Enforcement Division can help you enforce it.