When parents get divorced, it is essential that their child custody and support agreements provide for the children’s needs, both in the near and long term. This generally involves establishing a child support plan that follows Massachusetts law and helps provide for the kids’ basic financial needs as if they were continuing to reside with both parents.
It is a common assumption that child support, also known as maintenance, is only meant for minor children and that family law courts will not approve an enforceable order that provides maintenance past a child’s 18th birthday. This is a myth. In fact, proper child support planning may include help for the children’s college education.
Child support for college students
MGL c. 208, § 28, Massachusetts’ child support statute, allows family court judges to approve orders for the benefit of an adult child between 18 and 23. Specifically, if a child is:
- Over 18 but under 23
- Domiciled in one parent’s home; and
- Principally dependent on that parent for maintenance
They are eligible for a maintenance order that helps pay for their college education. Note that this applies to undergraduate education only, not students working on a graduate degree.
Why getting a maintenance order matters
Having a support order that ensures the noncustodial parent will pay all or part of your children’s college education matters. Even if you and your co-parent are on good terms now, things can change as the years pass. Your children cannot rely on an informal promise from their other parent to help pay their college tuition.
Conversely, if you are the non-custodial parent having an order in place allows you to plan for the future and petition the court for a modification if your financial circumstances change.
Your children are likely your first priority in your divorce. To best provide a stable, healthy transition for them, speak to an experienced divorce attorney about what can be done for your kids.