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Is a person going thru divorce obligated to pay alimony and child support until the child is 24?

Lowell, MA |

My friend is going thru divorce, the soon to be ex wanted an agreement, now she wants alimony, child support until the children are 24 instead of 18 and life insurance, can the court "make" him pay for alimony, child support until 24 and life insurance? he has no college degree, poor english and limited posibilities to obtain a higher paying job. but he's willing to help out as much as he's financially able with college and others after they are 18, but he doesnt want to do it thru the courts because of his limitations (mention before). any suggestions?

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Attorney answers 4

Best Answer

Based upon your description of this matter it is highly unlikely that your friend will have to pay alimony and tying alimony to the age of the children is inappropriate because it may cause substantial tax issues.

With regard to child support, the requirement in Massachusetts is that child support continue until until the child is 18, or graduated from high school, unless the child is principally dependent upon the custodial parent, then 21, unless the child is enrolled in college, then 23.

Everything must be done through court order. Case law is clear in Massachusetts that child support obligations will not be recognized unless they are court ordered.

Your friend should see an attorney. If there are no custodial issues the fees should not be substantial.


It depends upon the specifics of your friend's case, specifically a variety factors, including the length of the marriage, conduct of each party during the marriage (who was bread-winner, who cared for home and family), education, work experience, the earning abilities of each spouse, assets of the marital estate, and division of the same, plus a whole host of other factors, which are unique to each case.

Without knowing these specifics, it is impossible to give any specific answers, other than to say:

(a) It is possible that your friend could be required to pay both alimony and child support;
(b) It is possible for the Court to order a payor of child support and/or alimony to maintain a life insurance policy, the purpose of which is to ensure ongoing financial support in the event of death;
(c) It is possible for the Court to order child support paid until the child is finished with college (completed within a reasonable amount of time), which may or may not be age 23, in addition to paying some monies for the children to attend college, if and when that becomes a reality.

Your friend should consult an experienced family law attorney to discuss these issues.

No attorney-client relatonship is created in responding to this question, and advice provided is based solely on very limited facts presented, and therefore may not be correct. You are advised that it is always best to contact a competent and experienced with the practice of law in the county in which you reside, particularly as it relates to family law, child support, custody and visitation (a/k/a "parenting time") issues, including 209A abuse-prevention restraining orders (a/k/a "ROs" in legal-speak), regarding un-emancipated children, under the age of 22.


If your friend is going through a divorce there are many issues to be settled including alimony, child support and the division of property. They can be settled in one of two ways. 1) Through a separation agreement negotiated by the parties and approved by the court, or 2) Through a trial on the merits where the court produces and order settling all matters. When the court looks at the agreement or formulates a judgment it looks at the facts of the case and applies the applicable law through the eye and discretion of the judge. Court approved separation agreements and judgments by the court are fully enforceable.

As for child support – it is mandatory until 18 yeas of age and the level of support is determined in generally by application of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. It can be extended by the court to age 21 if the child remains primarily dependant on the custodial parent and extended to age 23 if the child is pursuing an education. Very rarely can it be extended beyond 23 unless the are unusual circumstance such as disability.

An award of alimony is dependent on a lengthy analysis of the marriage (under mgl 208 sections 34, 48-55), including the length of the marriage, the needs of the dependant spouse and the ability to pay non-dependant spouse. Generally, there is insufficient income to grant both child-support and alimony and alimony is delayed (if warranted) until the child support obligation is fulfilled.

If you friend wants to create his own agreement and it doesn’t reflect the Massachusetts laws on divorce he will have to forego the divorce process and remain married, but he has no veto power over his spouse’s desire for divorce and she can seek it unilaterally and force him to participate and adhere to the legal requirements.

From the way you have described your friend’s intentions it is clear that he knows very little about the law and the enforcement power of the court – he is perfectly situated for a rude awakening and show confer with an attorney immediately in order to avoid some very costly mistakes.

This is not legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should speak to an attorney for further information.


Without more facts, it is difficult to provide a comprehensive answer to your question. The short answer is, yes, your friend may be obligated to pay both child support and alimony.

The duration of child support depends on whether the child(ren) attend college and are principally dependent on the custodial parent. A parent may be obligated to pay child support until the child reaches the age of 23 if the child is enrolled full time in college or is still principally dependent on the custodial parent. Once the child is emancipated, usually sometime between the ages of 18 and 23, the non-custodial parent can file a Complaint for Modification to have child support cease.

The duration of alimony depends on a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, who the primary breadwinner was in the marriage, the conduct of the parties, the earning potential of each of the parties, their health, age and education, and several other factors. Whether alimony is appropriate is a highly fact specific inquiry.

Finally, parents are generally required to maintain a life insurance policy naming the custodial parent or the minor children as beneficiaries until the time the child is emancipated. This is to ensure that the child will still be provided with sufficient suport during minority in the event of a parent's death.

It is in your friend's best interest to have the terms of alimony, child support, life insurance, etc. entered as a formal order by the court. Your friend and his wife can come to an agreement and submit that to the court along with a joint petition for divorce, and that will minimize the time and expense necessary to accomplish the divorce. It is highly advisable to have everything formalized by a court to ensure that the parties are provided an accessible forum to resolve any disputes that may arise.

Best of luck to your friend.

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