When parents divorce, most can expect to continue supporting their children financially until they’re at least 18 years of age, regardless of custody. However, most parents expect to have child support payments and obligations end by the time their child reaches the age of adulthood. In Massachusetts, parents may be ordered to pay a portion of college expenses. Here’s what you should know about college expenses in a Massachusetts divorce case—

Can Child Support Be Extended Beyond a Child’s 18th Year?

The first important thing to know about child support in Massachusetts is that parents can be ordered to pay child support expenses beyond a child’s 18th year in some cases. For example, in the event of undergraduate college expenses, parents may be ordered to share costs. 

How Much Can a Parent Be Ordered to Pay?

It’s important to know that a parent can be ordered to pay for a portion of a child’s college expenses without being ordered to pay child support to the other parent when the child is between 18-21 years old. The child must be dependent on their parents financially in order to qualify for court-ordered financial support for college.

How much support a parent can be ordered to pay is discretionary and limited. Massachusetts guidelines state that a parent cannot be ordered to pay more than 50% of the cost of tuition, fees, and room and board for an in-state resident at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. In determining whether or not to order support, the court will consider factors such as the cost of post-secondary education, the aptitude of the child, the child’s living and financial situation, the availability of financial aid, and the financial circumstances of the child. 

Modifying Support As Your Child Approaches College Age

In most cases, parents who divorce with young children won’t make a determination about paying for child support at the time of the original child support order. Usually, Massachusetts courts will not issue an order about post-high school financial support for a child until a child reaches their teenage years. As such, if you want your spouse to share these costs, you’ll likely have to seek a modification of a child support order when your child reaches the appropriate age. 

Get Help from a Massachusetts Family Law Attorney 

Affording college for a child can be a big expense, especially if it’s an expense that you’re taking on alone. If you think that your spouse should be responsible for paying a portion of your child’s college education costs, or if your ex-spouse is asking you to pay for a portion of these costs and you are in disagreement, you need a family law attorney. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our experienced Massachusetts family law attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options when it comes to college expenses in a Massachusetts divorce or child support modification case. Call today at (617) 903-8955 or send us a message online to get started.