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Child support for children over the age of 18

A parent’s obligation to support his or her child usually ends when the child is emancipated. Under Massachusetts law, a child is considered to be legally emancipated when he or she turns 18. As a result, child support generally is intended for children under the age of 18. Of course, there are exceptions.

One exception is a child who is over the age of 18 and still in high school. A parent still has a legal obligation to pay child support for that child. Another exception is a child who is attending college. In Massachusetts, a judge can order a parent to pay for a child’s college expenses, even if the child is over the age of 18. 

College expenses are considered to be a form of child support under the law. These types of expenses include much more than tuition. College expenses also include room and board, books, fees, transportation, health care coverage, and living expenses.

A court considers a number of factors when deciding whether to order a parent to pay a child’s college expenses. These factors include:

  • The child’s academic circumstances
  • The child’s living situation
  • The financial resources of the parents, including their incomes, savings, and any investments
  • How much college will cost
  • The financial resources of the child, including the availability of financial aid and scholarships
  • Why the child continues to live with and/or be dependent on the parents

If the court does order a parent to pay the child’s college expenses, these expenses most likely will be added to the child support order. The support will then go to the parent, not the child. The amount of support varies depending on the particular circumstances.

If you need help establishing or modifying child support, consider speaking with a family law attorney.

Source:, “Child Support Guidelines,” Accessed Aug. 2, 2015 


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