Do I Have To Pay Child Support and College Expenses For My Kids in MA?

Hi, I’m Bill Farias, founder of Farias Family Law. This is a question that came up about a month ago. I met with a gentleman who is moving toward divorce, he has two kids, both in college, he’s been helping out with their college expenses and this guy is concerned that he may have to pay child support on top of the college costs he’s already paying. So is it possible that the court will order you to pay both? The answer is yes, it is possible. There is no black and white answer on this because judges have a lot of discretion on the issue of college expenses. So what we can do here is we can break down how child support works post age 18 and how college expenses work and then how they interact.

So let’s start with child support. Once a child reaches the age of 18 and has graduated from high school, if that young adult will call him or her, a young adult, is still principally dependent on a parent, then child support is at issue. So between the age of 18 and 21, you have this time period where if the young adult is principally dependent as in still living with a parent at least some of the time, so if the young adult goes away to school, for example, that doesn’t mean that the young adult is not principally dependent if the main residence is still with one of the parents. So between 18 and 21, if the young adult is principally dependent, there is a child support issue. Once the young adult reaches the age of 21, in most cases the court requires the young adult to still be attending undergraduate college, at least close to full time.

So in my experience, if the young adult is 21 and taking a class or a couple of classes, there is a good chance that the court is going to consider the young adult emancipated. But if the young adult is between the ages of 21 and 23 and going to undergraduate school at least close to full time and is still principally dependent on a parent, then there is still a child support issue. So post 18, you have this 18 to 21 principally dependent, you don’t really need for the child to be attending college for there to be a child support issue. And then you have 21 to 23, there is a requirement that the young adult be attending school at least close to full-time and it has to be undergraduate studies.

So now with college expenses, this is wholly discretionary. So the court may order college expenses, may not order college expenses, and it really depends on the party’s financial circumstances. The most recent child support guidelines did however implement a cap. So generally no parent is required to pay more than half of the cost of UMass Amherst in-state resident tuition costs. So that is the cap, there is really no minimum, so a court may order no college expense contributions by the parent. What we’ve seen in the past that’s used commonly is that a court may order each parent to contribute about a third of the costs, again, assuming that it doesn’t exceed that cap of half of UMass in-state resident costs, a court may order a third, a third, a third, so each parent is responsible for a third and the child chips in a third, but that isn’t a rule. Again, some judges use that, some judges order no contributions, some order the max, it really depends on the party’s financial circumstances.

The court may consider in determining whether a parent should contribute to college expenses, that that parent is paying child support. So the court may reduce the child support by some amount, but not necessarily, depending on the parent’s income and financial means, a court may not reduce child support and still order the parent to pay college expenses on top of child support.

So the answer to the question of whether a court can order child support on top of college contributions is yes, it depends on the party’s financial circumstances. If you have any other questions about this, you can call us at 508-675-0464, you can email us at [email protected]. If you found this video helpful, you can subscribe to our channel and share it with anyone you think might benefit from it, and you can also find us on Facebook and Instagram @fariasfamilylaw.

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