At Ryan Faenza Carey, we support clients with very different factors that must be taken into consideration during family law matters, including divorce. In this post of a multi-part series, Attorney Kara Carey offers a quick download on the Massachusetts rules on child support, and how long parents are expected to provide it for their child(ren).

How long do I have to pay child support? Even if my child lives at college?

Until your child is emancipated. In Massachusetts, child support does not automatically terminate at age 18. In fact, it can continue until age 23. However, child support for children ages 18 or older and graduated high school is not guaranteed. Judges have discretion in deciding to order support or not after determining the child’s living situation, dependence on one parent, child’s academic circumstances, available resources of the parents, and each parent’s contribution towards college costs.

If a child joins the military or gets married, it is clear that the child support ends. If a child is under 21, but lives with a parent and is dependent on that parent, you will most likely still have to pay child support, but maybe at a reduced level depending the child’s needs.

For you to be responsible for paying child support your child’s age of 21, he/she must be living with a parent at some point during the year, be dependent on that parent and be enrolled in an educational program. If a child is enrolled in an educational program, it is clear that child support does not end, but the amount paid towards tuition may offset the amount of the support payment. Divorced parents should anticipate that the court will require some contribution from both parents towards college costs; the amount depends on the financial circumstances of the parties.

The Court does not necessarily terminate support upon a child attending college for four years; if the child continues to be enrolled in an educational program (but not beyond an undergraduate degree), the support can continue until the child is 23.

If child support is ordered, the Child Support Guidelines factors in the ages of the children and reduces the amount of child support for children ages 18 or older.


Child support can vary based on age of children, financial status and ability for the parent to pay. If this could be a consideration in your divorce, contact us to see how we can help.