An action for separate support in Massachusetts alleges that one spouse has the ability to support the family but is not doing so. An action for separate support can be brought by a spouse, a guardian of a minor child, or the Department of Transitional Assistance if the family receives public benefits. It provides for the enforcement of legal duties of the couple while the marriage continues.
If you live apart your spouse, or if you are still living with you spouse but you have “justifiable cause” for living apart, you can start an action for separate support by filing a Complaint for Separate Support in the Probate and Family Court.
There is a filing fee for an action for separate support, but the filing fee can be waived if the Court finds you eligible for a fee waiver. Check with the court personnel to determine if you are eligible for the waiver based on your income.
No other actions for annulment or divorce or separate support can be pending at the time you file for separate support. Your spouse must be personally served with the complaint. This means that she or he is hand-delivered the summons by a disinterested third party such as a sheriff or constable.
In order to be granted separate support, you must be able to prove one of the three grounds:
- The other spouse has failed to provide suitable support without justifiable cause; or
- The other spouse has deserted the person filing the action; or
- There is justifiable cause for living apart even if the spouses are not currently living apart.
The separate support action does not result in a divorce. A person or couple can later file for a divorce which will replace the separate support order. In a separate support action, a judge can enter orders concerning minor children, spousal support, and the equivalent of a restraining order. The judge can also order one spouse to vacate the marital home for 90 days if it is in the children’s best interests. The division of property and any debts of the two parties cannot be finalized through a separate support action however, there are exceptions to this in cases of abandonment.
Should you be in the midst of a separate support action or contemplating filing a separate support action, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.