The support of children during and following a divorce is a complex matter. The interplay between child support and college education expenses is an example of this. Payment of college education expenses, like child support, can be enforced, modified, or terminated in the Probate Court. Typically, when a child is attending college full time and is still financially dependent on a parent, they are not “emancipated”. In Massachusetts, child support may not end when your child turns 18 and graduates from high school. Child support can continue up to age 23 or when the child graduates from college. In most cases, a divorce agreement will anticipate how the financial needs of a “adult-child” will be met including college education expenses. In others the Court will decide the issue of support of a child over 18.
The Court must evaluate whether a child over age 18 is still financially dependent on a parent. The Court typically considers many factors such as whether the child lives at home, if the child works and if so, how many hours per week, does the child contribute to household expenses or their own personal needs, does the child maintain a full academic schedule, and attend an accredited educational program on a regular basis. The Court also will consider each parent’s financial circumstances.
If your child enrolls in college or continues living with a parent after age 18, you should not stop paying child support. You must continue to follow your existing court orders until they have been formally modified or terminated. Both parents and the child should create a plan for the upcoming school year. The plan should take into account the child’s school and work schedule, financial contributions and living arrangements as well as the parent’s finances. If college attendance is far away at the time of divorce, a rough plan should be written into the divorce agreement. For parents who are already divorced, an existing college plan may no longer be adequate or financially feasible. Perhaps no plan was ever created. In these situations, you should seek a formal modification judgment from the Court.
Families sometimes are challenged by serious legal matters with long term effects. These can be some of the most difficult life events that a family will face. Every family, and every life situation, is different. Our attorneys are trained to listen to your needs and act on them. We provide each client with a legal plan designed to help them achieve their unique goals. Our attorneys work on the full spectrum of family law matters, from the most complex cases to uncontested matters. Child support disputes can create a great deal of stress. Our deep experience guides our clients toward support awards that are fair given each client’s unique personal and financial circumstances. Our clients benefit from our knowledge about the intricacies of the Massachusetts child support guidelines and how they work. Our attorneys also routinely assist with modification of prior child support orders, when a change is necessary.
Jeffrey P. Greenberg
Family Law and Probate