When does child support extend past age 18?

While most states consider 18 to be the age of majority, many young adults still receive financial support from parents during their early 20s. Under certain circumstances, Massachusetts may extend a parent’s legal child support obligation past age 18. 

Learn more about situations in which children are eligible for child support even after they legally reach adulthood. 

Children who live with a parent 

Children between ages 18 and 21 who remain in the home of a parent and rely on that parent for financial support may continue to receive child support from the noncustodial parent. This includes those in this age group who are still in high school or college, as well as those who are not. In addition, the court may extend support until age 23 for a student who lives with a parent, relies on that parent for support and has enrolled in an undergraduate degree program. 

In Massachusetts, the judge has discretion about whether to order support in these situations. The court will consider the child’s education cost, school enrollment, available financial aid, ability to become financially independent, living situation, the reason for living with a parent and the available financial resources of both parents. 

Children who have special needs 

When a child has a permanent mental or physical disability or serious illness, support payments can continue indefinitely. Massachusetts considers a child’s special health needs when creating a child support order to ensure the child receives adequate care even beyond age 18. The parents can also create a provision for medical care in the divorce agreement. For example, they may decide to establish a medical trust. 

With parental agreement 

When both parents agree that they want their children to receive financial support until a specific age, the court will uphold their wishes. However, the parents must detail this agreement in their divorce decree or parenting plan. 

In Massachusetts, child support terminates automatically when the child reaches the age of majority and meets these other requirements. In some cases, the original child support order may include an expiration date.