Step 2: Get the custody papers served on the other parent.
You will need to give notice to the other parent that you have filed a complaint for custody. This process is called “service of process.” This is done by having a third party who is 18 or older (generally a constable or sheriff) hand copies of the legal papers to the other parent. There is generally a fee for this service but if you have proof that you are low-income in the form of an “affidavit of indigency” that was approved by the judge, bring that with you and the fee may be waived.1
For a list of sheriff departments in Massachusetts, go to our MA Sheriff Departments page.
After the papers are served, be sure to get back the proof of service form from whoever serves the papers and be sure to bring that paper to court. That signed form is your proof that the abuser was served in case s/he doesn’t appear in court.
1 See MassLegalHelp.org
You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?