Massachusetts law about child support over age 18

A compilation of laws, cases and web sources on the child support for children over 18.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

18-23 years old

MGL c. 208, § 28 Care, custody, maintenance and support of minor children following divorce
The court may make appropriate orders of maintenance, support and education of any child who has attained age eighteen but who has not attained age twenty-one and who is domiciled in the home of a parent, and is principally dependent upon said parent for maintenance. The court may make appropriate orders of maintenance, support and education for any child who has attained age twenty-one but who has not attained age twenty-three, if such child is domiciled in the home of a parent, and is principally dependent upon said parent for maintenance due to the enrollment of such child in an educational program, excluding educational costs beyond an undergraduate degree.

MGL c. 209, § 37 Orders for support and maintenance of children of separated parents

MGL c. 209C, § 9 Orders for support: factors considered in determining amount for children born out of wedlock

Guidelines

Child support guidelines
The guidelines are the basis for deciding how much child support should be paid. See, in particular, Section II.F: Child support for children between the ages of 18 and 23, and Section II.G: Contribution to post-secondary educational expenses

Selected cases

Barnes v. Devlin, 84 Mass. App. Ct. 159 (2013)
A father could not unilaterally stop paying child support under an agreed-upon separation agreement, where he argued that the conditions of MGL c.208 § 28. His "proper recourse, as the judge stated, would have been to initiate appropriate modification proceedings, as opposed to unilaterally stopping payments."

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.

Doe v. Roe, 23 Mass. App. Ct. 590 (1987)
Child born out of wedlock had same rights to support after age 18 from adjudicated father as children of divorced parents would have from their parents.

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.

Web sources

Big changes under 2017 child support guidelines, Jason V. Owens
Explains what has changed from the 2013 to the 2017 Child Support Guidelines

Child support for children 18-22, Mass. Legal Help, 2017.
Provides discussion of what a judge looks at when considering child support over the age of 18.

Ending a child support order, Mass Legal Help, 2013.
"If both parents do not agree the order has ended, then going to court to get a judge to decide may be the best thing to do. If both parents agree it may still be the best thing to ask the court to end the order."

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

Financial aspects of divorce in Massachusetts, MCLE, 2016. Chapter 9 Payment of children's college education.

Financing college education expenses in divorced and divorcing families , Boston Bar Association, 2010

Massachusetts domestic relations , 5th ed., by John G. DiPiano et al., Lexis Publishing, 2012, with supplement. v. 9, §§ 10-72 - 10-82

Massachusetts practice v. 2 (Family law and practice) , 4th ed., Thomson Reuters, 2013 with supplement.
Section 50.50 Expenses of College Education.

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: August 23, 2019
Feedback