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Does Massachusetts child support automatically end at 18?

Most parents in Massachusetts can tell you that taking care of a child is a life-long commitment. While, for most purposes, society treats people as adults when they turn 18-years-old, this does not always mean they can be completely independent at that point. This may be especially true in coming years as educational expectations continue to climb and undergraduate degrees become more and more expensive. When parents have ended their relationship with each other prior to a child’s 18th birthday, there may be questions with regard to whether a non-custodial parent is to continue ordered child support payments once the child turns 18.

According to Massachusetts law, family courts can continue child support orders beyond the age of 18 in certain circumstances. For example, a court could determine that a child under 21 years of age requires further support if he or she is residing with a parent and is still dependent upon that parent for maintenance. The court can also make stipulations in such an order regarding the child’s education as well.

Further, even children older than 21 may still be subject to support orders in Massachusetts under certain circumstances. The law provides that a court may order support to be paid for a child under 23-years-old who is living with a parent and is dependent on that parent because the child is enrolled in an educational program, as long as it is not meant to lead to something beyond an undergraduate degree. The court can also continue to order a parent to provide health insurance for such a child.

Parents should also be aware that if there are delinquent child support payments, these are likely still due and owing even after a child has turned 18, 21, or 23. Parents may wish to consider filing a modification of child support if they believe the current order is not reflective of the current legal situation.