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General Laws

Section 3. (a) The district, Boston municipal and the probate and family court departments of the trial court shall have concurrent jurisdiction over complaints to establish paternity or support and the registration of voluntary acknowledgments of parentage; provided, however, that the district and Boston municipal court departments shall have no jurisdiction of custody or visitation matters under this chapter. Complaints to establish paternity or support or for voluntary acknowledgments of parentage which also include a request for an order relative to custody or visitation shall be filed only in the probate and family court department. No court shall make an order providing visitation rights to any parent who has been convicted of murder in the first degree of the other parent of the child who is the subject of the order, unless such child is of suitable age to signify his assent and assents to such order; provided, further, that until such order is issued, no person shall visit, with the child present, a parent who has been convicted of murder in the first degree of the other parent of the child without the consent of the child’s custodian or legal guardian.

(b) Any party to an action for paternity or support which is pending or was previously adjudicated by the district or Boston municipal court departments who seeks an order relative to custody or visitation may, after the adjudication or voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and entry of an order or judgment for support, file an action in the probate and family court department in the county where the child resides to determine custody or visitation. The filing of the action in the probate and family court shall act to transfer the case from the district court or the Boston municipal court department to the probate and family court department. The register of probate shall make entry in the docket that the case shall thereafter be heard only in the probate and family court department. The party seeking transfer shall notify the parties, the district court or the Boston municipal court and, if applicable, the IV-D agency as set forth in chapter 119A that the action has been transferred to the probate and family court department. The clerk magistrate of the district court or the Boston municipal court shall make entry in the docket of such transfer.

(c) The juvenile court department shall have concurrent jurisdiction to adjudicate paternity and support and to accept registration of voluntary acknowledgments of parentage under this chapter, provided that actions brought under this chapter are joined or consolidated with actions brought under section twenty-four of chapter one hundred and nineteen and, provided further, that the action under section twenty-four of chapter one hundred and nineteen is initiated before the filing of a complaint under this chapter.

(d) Any action pursuant to this chapter that is pending or was previously adjudicated in the district court or Boston municipal court departments may be transferred by any party or by the IV-D agency as set forth in chapter 119A to the probate and family court department in the county where the child resides or, if the child does not reside in the commonwealth and a court of the commonwealth has jurisdiction under chapter 209D, in the county where one of the parents resides. An action shall be transferred upon the filing of the following documents with the probate and family court:— (1) a copy of the complaint; (2) a copy of the order of the district court or Boston municipal court, if any; (3) a copy of the findings of the court, if any; (4) a copy of the financial statements submitted by the parties, if any; (5) a copy of the worksheet used to calculate the amount of the child support order pursuant to the child support guidelines, if any; and (6) a copy of the docket maintained by the district court or the Boston municipal court, if any. Once transferred, the order of the district court or the Boston municipal court shall have the same force and effect, and shall be subject to the same procedures and defenses as an order of the probate and family court and may be enforced or modified in the same manner available to enforce or modify any judgment or order of the probate and family court. Transfer of an order pursuant to this section shall not limit the use of any enforcement remedy, whether judicial or administrative, that may be available and the probate and family court shall preserve all arrears that have accrued pursuant to the order of the district or Boston municipal court departments.

(e) An order or judgment for support entered in the juvenile court department shall remain in full force and effect and shall be enforced in the division of the juvenile court department in which the original order or judgment of support was entered during the pendency of an action pursuant to section twenty-four of chapter one hundred and nineteen. Six months after the dismissal or final order of commitment pursuant to section twenty-four of chapter one hundred and nineteen, the order or judgment of support shall expire. At the time of such dismissal or final order of commitment, the clerk-magistrate shall notify the parties and the IV-D agency, as set forth in chapter one hundred and nineteen A, of the date of expiration of the support order or judgment. If, before the expiration of the order or judgment of support, any of the parties or said IV-D agency files an action for support in the Boston municipal court department or the appropriate division of the district or probate and family court departments, the prior order or judgment shall be transferred to that court department and shall remain in full force and effect and shall be enforced and modified in said court department.

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