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Will child support stop automatically at age 18

Worcester, MA |
Attorney answers 7


Emancipation can last up until the child is age 23 if he/she is enrolled in school and still principally dependent on the custodial parent. You should have any attorney review the court order before you do anything. My guess is that you cannot stop paying and that emancipation has probably not occurred.


Karla Mansur, Esq.
Law Office of Karla M. Mansur, LLC
81 Middle Street
Concord, MA 01742
P: (978) 341-5040 / F: (978) 401-0687

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A child is not always "emancipated" at 18. The definition of emancipation can be defined by Mass General Laws chapter 208, section 28, or by agreement of the parties. It is unclear what "paper work" you refer to; if it is a Separation Agreement or a Court Judgment. Generally, child support does not terminate when a child goes to college. You should consult with a family law attorney to review the "paper work" you reference, and to ensure you do not violate the court order.

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No, child support does not automatically end at age 18. In Massachusetts, child support may be paid until the child is 23 if the child is enrolled full time in college and principally dependent on the custodial parent. The terms of your separation agreement may specifically define emancipation, so I would suggest reviewing the terms of your agreement with an attorney. If you feel that your obligation to pay support has ended, you may file a Complaint for Modification with the court to terminate your obligation. Good luck.

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Not knowing when your case (presumably in a divorce), went to judgment, from what you relate, it appears that child support will continue until the child is “emancipated” which in Massachusetts is either (1.) when child reaches age 18 AND child has graduated from high school, will not be pursuing post-secondary education, AND is no longer “dependent” upon physical custodial parent for his/her support; or (2) when child reaches age 22 and has graduated from college (which assumes child graduated high school at age 18, and attended college in four years immediately thereafter, without any “breaks” in college education.

In Massachusetts, the physical custodial parent continues to remain eligible to receive child support while child is pursuing post-secondary education (college, etc.), because child is still assumed to “reside” primarily with custodial parent while not attending school.

On the last bit – this is generally interpreted to mean that each parent will contribute to the child’s post-secondary education (college) in accordance with each parent’s respective financial ability to do so. If there is NO ability to pay for college, the Court will not force a parent to contribute, or if only a limited ability to pay, Court will enter orders as is appropriate, and child will have to figure out a way to fund college education (grants, scholarships, loans)…

Best wishes.

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.


Emancipation is probably the most misunderstood concept in Massachusetts. Most agreements follow the language of the General Laws with regard to emancipation which indicates that child support will terminate upon graduation of high school or turning 18, unless the child is principally dependent upon the custodial parent,. then 21, unless the child is in college, then 23 or graduation, whichever comes first. Most agreements also state that parents will pay for college in proportion to their income and assets. This clause doesn't mean much until the child is ready to go to college.

The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines are only applicable until the age of 18. After 18 the guidelines do not apply. There are many reasons for this of which the primary reason is college expenses. Although the Court may continue to look at the guidelines for guidance, the issue of college expenses paid by each party will have an effect on child support.

You need an experienced lawyer to review your agreement and your financial position to properly advise you and help you navigate through this situation. A modification will probably be necessary.


You actually have two questions here: (1) Will weekly child support end when the child goes off to college and (2) what will the parents each contribute to college expenses.

These are deeply dependent on the language of the judgment or order. You should bring the divorce judgment to a lawyer to have them assess your options.

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File for modification

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