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District Court Special Rule 209: Emergency Rule for Civil Support and Paternity Actions

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(a) Scope and Applicability of Rule. This rule governs procedure in all actions for support and all actions for determination of paternity pursuant to G.L. c. 209, s. 32F and c. 209C in the District Court. It shall be construed and applied to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every such action. In appropriate cases, the court may direct that the procedures set forth in particular sections of the District/Municipal Courts Rules of Civil Procedures be utilized in these proceedings, when not inconsistent with this rule.

(b) Filing a Complaint. Each action for support or paternity shall be begun on a Complaint and Summons form. If requested by the plaintiff or if otherwise feasible and appropriate to facilitate the filing of a legible and complete complaint, the clerk shall provide assistance to the plaintiff in completing the form. The court shall not charge the plaintiff an entry fee or a fee for the cost of mailing or other method of service. The clerk shall provide a copy of the Complaint and Summons to the plaintiff at no cost upon filing.

(c) Notice to Defendant. The clerk shall promptly send to the defendant by certified mail, return receipt requested, and also by separate first class mail, at the address or addresses supplied by the plaintiff, a copy of the Complaint and Summons form. Such certified mail notice of the complaint shall be sufficient, although unclaimed or refused by the defendant, provided that the first class mail notice is not returned to the court undelivered. The court may provide for any other means of service in individual cases as is deemed necessary.

(d) Discovery. No depositions or interrogatories shall be permitted except upon good cause shown. Subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses or the production of documentary evidence shall be issued and served in accordance with the procedures set forth in Rule 45 of the District/Municipal Courts Rules of Civil Procedure.

(e) Trials and Judgments.

(1) Time Goals for Orders and Judgments. Whether or not the defendant appears for trial, it shall be the goal of the court to enter an order or a judgment for support in all cases within 45 days from the date of filing of the Complaint and Summons form, assuming valid service of the Complaint and Summons has been made; provided, however, that in any case in which blood or genetic marker testing is to be performed, the order or judgment for support should be entered as promptly as possible. Continuances which would frustrate the observance of the above goals shall not be granted except upon a showing of extreme circumstances.

(2) Failure of a Defendant to Appear for Trial. If valid service has been made and if the defendant fails to appear for trial and the plaintiff does appear, the court may adjudicate paternity, and may enter a temporary support order or judgment for support, including an income assignment as provided for in G.L. c. 119A; provided, however, that no order or judgment of support shall be made in a case filed pursuant to c. 209C unless the court has first found the defendant to be the parent of the child and chargeable with the support of said child.

(3) Conduct of Trial. The parties and witnesses testifying shall be sworn. Consistent with applicable statutes and the rules of evidence, the court shall conduct the trial in such order and form and with such methods of proof as it deems best suited to discover the facts and do justice in the case.

(4) Judgments and Orders. The clerk shall promptly enter the order, judgment, or adjudication of paternity on the docket, together with the date of such entry, and shall promptly complete and give a copy of such order, judgment or adjudication to each party. Such notice shall be given in-hand while the party is before the court, or by first class mail. In appropriate cases, including those in which an income assignment cannot be effectuated, the court may order an additional or alternative method of notifying the defendant of the order, judgment or adjudication, including service by any person authorized to serve civil or criminal process, including police officers, as authorized by law.

The clerk shall keep such records of dates relative to the filing of complaints and the entry of orders and judgments under G.L. c. 209, s. 32F and c. 209C as may be prescribed by the administrative justice.

Adopted July 31, 1986, effective July 22, 1986.