Q. My husband has an 18-year-old son from his first marriage who started college in September. He went back to court to end his child support – after all his son is a grown man and should be supporting himself. Not only was my husband ordered to continue to pay child support, he was ordered to pay $15,000 per year toward college expenses.
No one paid for my husband or I to get a college degree – we both worked hard and earned it. We don’t have this kind of money. It makes no sense for him to pay child support to the mother when the kid doesn’t live with her on top of paying for school.
A. In Massachusetts the law says that a child becomes emancipated when he reaches age 18 only if he is no longer dependent on his parents for support. However, if he continues to attend school (college or vocational school) then he is not emancipated until age 21. And, if at age 21 he is still pursuing a degree or vocational training full time he is not emancipated until the earlier of his completing his education or turning 23. Our legislature made these rules a long time ago so if you believe they are unfair, your appeal is to your senator and your state representative.
When college expenses are ordered, child support often decreases but if it doesn’t, that is because a judge has determined that the support obligor has the ability to continue to pay child support while contributing to college.
While your husband’s son may be living on campus during the school year, he probably is not living there during the summer or school vacation periods, meaning he needs a roof over his head when he returns home. Presumably that roof is covering his mother’s home and that is what your husband is contributing to for his son even though it also benefits the mother.
Certainly, if your husband does not like the order, he can appeal the decision to the Appeals Court but he must file his Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the judgment being entered on the docket. If the order is only temporary, he can insist on a trial and present the judge with all of his evidence supporting his inability to meet the payment and hope for a reduction.
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