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How long does a Massachusetts parent pay child support?

Many non-custodial parents may contribute to an education fund for their children, voluntarily or as part of a divorce agreement. It's important for Massachusetts divorced parents to track these savings carefully. College tuition and child support payments can cross paths when a child reaches legal adulthood.

Many non-custodial parents assume child support ends when a minor child turns 18. Massachusetts laws allow child support to continue beyond 18, under certain circumstances. Support may be ordered until the child completes high school, if graduation falls at or after age 18.

Child support is not extended if a child of 18 or older moves out of a custodial parent's home unbless he or she is attending college. The child must be a custodial parent's dependent for continued support. Judges may choose to order continued support while the child is in college.

The order isn't automatic. Judges will consider the parents' resources, plans for shared expenses and the student's academic circumstances, including financial aid and tuition and other college costs. Any earlier commitments made by parents toward a college fund also will influence the need for child support beyond age 18.

Attorneys are prepared to answer questions about child support issues for adult children. Some circumstances may invalidate the need for extended support orders or support modifications like a child's marriage, entry into military service, a child's decision to move out of the custodial parent's home or the choice to quit college. An adult child with a disability may require added support for reasons not presented here.

Parents are advised to speak with an attorney at the time of separation or divorce to understand child support obligations fully. Many spouses are highly concerned about the present effects of child support on their lives. It's imperative to think about the future needs of children and to negotiate, if possible, a financial solution for those concerns during a divorce.

Source: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of the Chief Justice, "Child Support Guidelines" Dec. 29, 2014

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