Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Standing Order 3-11: Modification Pilot Program for IV-D cases in the Bristol Division ofthe Probate and Family Court
In an effort to explore the possibility of streamlining the modification process in the Probate and Family Court, the following procedures will be implemented for all IV -D cases in the Bristol Division that seek a modification of child support and/or medical support. If the pilot is successful, these procedures may be implemented statewide.
These procedures apply to all IV-D cases filed in the Bristol Probate and Family Court, including those filed by private counsel, parties on a pro se basis and/or by DOR, that involve a request for modification of child and/or medical support only.
These procedures do not apply to complaints for modification that seek a change in custody and/or visitation, nor can these procedures by used to address the issues of custody and/or visitation.
B. Forms and Procedures
For cases that have previously gone to judgment:
1. A unified, one-page form that combines a complaint for modification and motion for temporary orders for child or medical support only. The unified complaint and temporary motion form will be accompanied by a summons establishing a hearing date on the return day. The hearing date will be set by the Court when issuing the summons.
2. A complaint for modification of child or medical support only (no motion). Those parties who choose not to use the unified form, may use the simplified complaint form. The summons for this complaint will establish a date for a case management conference. The date of the case management conference will be no earlier than 45 days from the date the complaint was filed. The case management conference date will be set by the Court when issuing the summons.
For cases where there is an open complaint and a support order has previously be established:
1. A simplified form for a motion for further temporary orders is available. The hearing date will be included on the motion.
C. Service of Process
Service by first-class mail will be used on a routine basis for all pilot cases.
D. Proof of Notice
1. If the defendant does not appear for the hearing or case management conference in response to first class mail service, a judge may still proceed if there is proof of actual notice. Proof of actual notice, includes, but is not limited to, (a) the responding party filed an answer to the complaint for modification; (b) the responding party called DOR to inquire about the upcoming hearing/matter; or (c) the filing party testifies that the responding party contacted him or her in response to the complaint. A judge may decline to go forward and hear the case if not satisfied that actual notice occurred.
2. If proof of actual notice is not established, the Court shall then require service under the existing Massachusetts procedures for domestic relations cases. Mass. R. Dom. ReI. P. 4 (d). A new summons shall issue.
E. Effect of Non-attendance
If, after notice, a party does not attend the hearing or case management conference, the judge may require the party to pay the costs and/or lost wages of the other party and/or enter a default support and/or medical support order.
Effective May 16, 2011.