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Massachusetts Law About Child Support Over Age Eighteen

Massachusetts Laws

Child Support Guidelines

Child Support Guidelines effective August 1, 2013. "In establishing support orders for children over age 18, to the extent permitted by law, the Court shall exercise its discretion in ordering support and/or college contribution."


Child Support Forms

Selected Cases

Eccleston v. Bankosky, 438 Mass. 428 (2003). While G.L. c. 208, § 28 does not authorize a Probate and Family Court judge to order a divorced father to pay support after his child's eighteenth birthday to a third party appointed as his child's guardian, the judge does have authority under G.L. c. 215, § 6 to determine whether the father should be required to support his daughter financially beyond her eighteenth birthday.

Kirwood v. Kirwood, 27 Mass.App.Ct. 1156 (1989). This case sets out the test for determining whether or not to maintain, increase or cancel support after the age of majority by using specified criteria to decide whether or not the individual is "principally dependent" upon the parent with whom s/he resides.

Larson v. Larson, 28 Mass.App.Ct. 338 (Larson I) (1990); 30 Mass.App.Ct. 418 (Larson II) (1991). In the first proceeding, court "declined to consider the question whether the child was emancipated as a matter of law upon attaining the age of eighteen, where the case had been tried on the theory that the matter would be resolved under the test for dependency set forth in G.L. c.208 sec. 28." In the second, the court retained jurisdiction over child support matters beyond the age of twenty-one.

Mansur v. Vinal, Probate and Family Court, Essex Division (89D-2178), March 26, 2001, affirmed 59 Mass.App.Ct. 1101 (2003), further appellate review denied 440 Mass. 1106 (2003). Where a father was obligated to support his son while the son engaged in a "full-time continuous course of study," but the son failed, withdrew or received incomplete grades in at least eight courses, the support obligation ended at the date of the son's originally anticipated graduation date.

McCarthy v. McCarthy, 36 Mass.App.Ct. 490 (1994). The court held that the Probate Court exceeded their powers when they modified a marital separation agreement. The modification increased the amount of child support the husband was paying to include college expenses. The original separation agreement did not address the issue of college expenses of the children. It survived the divorce judgment, and therefore more than a material change of circumstances would have to be established to alter the terms of the original agreement.

Other Web Sources

What Constitutes Emancipation to Release a Parent From a Child Support Obligation, Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center. Not specific to Massachusetts, this is a great introduction to the issues affecting emancipation throughout the country. Includes age of majority, marriage, entering the armed forces, having a child, abandoning the parent's home, and more. Keep in mind that Massachusetts may have different standards than the national norm in some of these areas.

Print Sources

"But Daddy, Why Can't I go to College?: The Frightening De-Kline of Support for Children's Post-Secondary Education," 37 Boston College Law Review 1099 (1996). Also available online to library card holders through Hein Online.

College education and family law : perspective of the bench, bar and college admissions, Boston Bar Association, 2006.

Financing College Education Expenses in Divorced and Divorcing Families, MCLE, 2010.

Massachusetts Domestic Relations, 5th ed., by John G. DiPiano et al., Lexis Publishing, 2012, v. 9, sec 10-72 - 10-82.

"Separation agreements and college expenses : investing in our future? The treatment of college expenses in support orders and separation agreements." Brian Kennedy and Hon. Edward Ginsburg, 24 Mass. Family Law Journal 98 (August/September 2006).