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Do child support obligations end automatically when child turns 18?

My son is turning eighteen in a few months but now my Ex is talking about trying to extend the child support while he goes to college. I read the other information you posted and know that a court might do that, but my question is, if my Ex is just talking (or if my son decides not to go to college) will my child support obligations end automatically or do I have to do something, like go back to court? Thanks

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You need to review the order that was entered in the court. There is a Wage Assignment order in most cases, and the assignment specifies the date the order ends (18, 21, or 23). If NO order specifies the date of ending, the very clear case law states that EMANCIPATION determines the end of the order. Emancipation is defined by STATUTE, for children of divorce AND children born out of wedlock. BOTH statutes are read into a vague order; thus, in both cases, a child is deemed supported until the statutory criteria are met. This means:
-18, only if FINISHED high school AND not attending school or otherwise dependent;
-21, UNLESS engaged in education up to one bachelor's degree;
-23 or completion of up to one bachelor's degree (whichever comes first). You need to get the order and ALL underlying paperwork, including the wage assignment paperwork from the court file. You should have an attorney review it to give you full advice.
Gregory P. Lee  
For more information or to post a question, visit our MA Family Law Discussion Forum.

I agree.  The best way to proceed is to have a Massachusetts divorce attorney review the documentation and order and determine if you need to file a complaint for modification.  The issue is governed by Massachusetts General Law Chapter 208, Section 28.  Section 28 states, in relevant part:

The court may make appropriate orders of maintenance, support and education of any child who has attained age eighteen but who has not attained age twenty-one and who is domiciled in the home of a parent, and is principally dependent upon said parent for maintenance. The court may make appropriate orders of maintenance, support and education for any child who has attained age twenty-one but who has not attained age twenty-three, if such child is domiciled in the home of a parent, and is principally dependent upon said parent for maintenance due to the enrollment of such child in an educational program, excluding educational costs beyond an undergraduate degree.

Each case will be different, and you will need to consider the current educational activities of the child and/or whether the child is principally dependent on the custodial parent.  If the child is not attending school, and is 20 or younger, then the question is whether he is principally dependant on your ex.  Courts would consider how much the child earns, what his expenses are, and whether he contributes to your ex wife for room and board.  If you have a "reasonable belief" that your child is not principally dependent on your ex-wife, then go ahead and file a Complaint for Modification.  The sooner you serve your ex with the complaint the better, because you will only be able to seek retroactive elimination of your child support payments going back the the date she is served with the complaint.

Once the child turns 21, the analysis changes.  At that point, and up until he reaches the age of 23, he must enrolled in a full-time college or other post-secondary program.  It is no longer a question of dependence.  If he is not enrolled in school, then you may seek to terminate your child support obligations. If your ex-wife is likely to challenge any move you make regarding child support, you should consider talking to a MA divorce attorney.  Good luck.

Read this post regarding changes to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208, Section 28 (effective July 1, 2012) and to the way MA Family Courts will interpret the terms emancipated and emancipation.

You should look at your agreement and see how the term emancipation is defined, that will dictate when child support terminates. If your child does not attend college and your support order is not throught the Department of Revenue (DOR) then you could simply stop paying when your child is emancipated pursuant to your agreement. If your support order is through DOR and your child is emancipated you will have to file a complaint for modification to get DOR to terminate it. Attorney Riddle
DISCLAIMER This answer is provided for educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you agree and understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question, or in the State where this charge is filed

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