Section 34A: Contempt; support or custody orders; costs; service; attorney's fees; interest; IV–D agency; arrest warrants
Section 34A. (a) Actions for contempt against any party for failure to obey any order or judgment of the probate court relative to support of a wife or children or affecting the custody of children shall be commenced in accordance with the rules of probate courts applicable to domestic relations matters.
The cost of such service shall, upon approval of the court, be borne by the county. If the party summonsed for contempt fails to appear, the court may order a capias to issue which shall be returnable forthwith or at such time as the court may order. The capias shall be served by a deputy sheriff, constable, or upon motion any person designated by the court to make such service and the costs of service, upon approval of the court, shall be paid by the county.
Any judge of probate may with the approval of the chief of police, through the office of said chief, order a police officer to make service of the summons or of a capias if, in his opinion, service by a police officer is necessary in order to promote the efficient enforcement of this section. The schedule of fees in section eight of chapter two hundred and sixty-two shall not apply to cost of service made pursuant to this section.
In entering a judgment of contempt for failure to comply with an order or judgment for monetary payment, there shall be a presumption that the plaintiff is entitled to receive from the defendant, in addition to the judgment on monetary arrears, all of his reasonable attorney's fees and expenses relating to the attempted resolution, initiation and prosecution of the complaint for contempt. The contempt judgment so entered shall include reasonable attorney's fees and expenses unless the probate judge enters specific findings that such attorney's fee and expenses shall not be paid by the defendant.
Any monetary contempt judgment shall carry with it interest, from the date of filing the complaint, at the rate determined under the provisions of section six C of chapter two hundred and thirty-one of the General Laws.
(b) Upon the request of the IV–D agency as set forth in chapter 119A, when a total arrearage amounting to the support owing for a 6–month period has accrued under the defendant's most recent order or judgment for support and the IV–D agency has been unable to bring the defendant before the court on a capias, the court shall issue a warrant for the arrest of the defendant. The IV–D agency shall file an affidavit accompanying the request for a warrant that states: (1) a total arrearage amounting to the support owing for a 6–month period has accrued under the defendant's most recent order or judgment for support; (2) the amount of the total arrearage; (3) the date of the last payment, if any; and (4) a description of the efforts made to serve the capias on the defendant. The IV–D agency shall also provide the court with identifying information on the defendant's name, last known address, date of birth, gender, race, height, weight, hair and eye color, any known aliases and any such information as shall be required for a warrant to be accepted by the criminal justice information system maintained by the department of criminal justice information services. A warrant that contains the above identifying information as provided by the IV–D agency to the court shall not be nullified if the information is later found to be inaccurate. If any of the above identifying information is not known to the IV–D agency, the IV–D agency may apply to the court for an exemption from the requirement to provide the information. The court shall grant the exemption if the court decides that the unknown information is not essential to identifying the defendant. The defendant may not challenge the validity of a warrant based on the granting of the exemption. The court shall enter the warrant, including the identifying information provided by the IV–D agency to the court and the name of the court that issued the warrant, into the warrant management system as set forth in section 23A of chapter 276. The warrant shall consist of the information that appears in the warrant management system, and a printout of the warrant from the criminal justice information system shall constitute a true copy of the warrant. The entry of the warrant into the warrant management system and the criminal justice information system shall constitute notice and delivery of the warrant to all law enforcement agencies who have arresting authority pursuant to section 23 of chapter 276.
Upon arrest, the arresting authority shall arrange for transportation of the defendant to the court that issued the warrant. If the defendant is arrested when the court is not in session, the defendant shall be held by the arresting authority or county jail facility, and transported to the issuing court during the next session and presented to the court. If the defendant voluntarily submits his person to the court, he shall likewise be brought before the court. The court shall notify the IV–D agency and conduct a hearing to recall the warrant and shall issue an order for the defendant to do one or more of the actions set forth in clauses (1) to (6), inclusive, of section 34.
Whenever a warrant is recalled or removed, the court shall, without unnecessary delay, enter the recall or removal in the warrant management system which entry shall be electronically transmitted to the criminal justice information system. The court shall also provide to the defendant a notice of recall of warrant.
A law enforcement officer who in the performance of his duties relies in good faith on the warrant appearing in the warrant management system shall not be liable in any criminal prosecution or civil action alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, or malicious prosecution or arrest by false pretense.
The issuing court shall provide notice no later than 30 days after the issuance of the warrant to the defendant. The notice shall contain information on the name and address of the issuing court, the date of the last payment of child support, if any, the amount of the total child support arrearage, a description of the method by which the defendant may clear the warrant and a summary of the consequences the defendant may face for not responding to the warrant. The notice shall be deemed satisfactory if mailed to the address stated on the warrant.
If a warrant remains outstanding for 1 year following the date that the warrant is entered into the warrant management system it shall constitute evidence of willful nonsupport in a criminal action pursuant to chapter 273.