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Legal Information: Massachusetts

Massachusetts Child Support

Laws current as of
January 31, 2021

Child Support

Who can get child support?
How long does child support last?
How much child support might I get?
Which parent has to provide health care coverage for the child?

Who can get child support?

You can seek a child support order if you are raising your child and living separately from the other parent. It does not matter whether you are married or unmarried.1

If you are the child’s mother and you are married to the child’s father, it is assumed (“presumed”) that your husband is the child’s father.2 However, if you are unmarried, before the court can issue a child support order, the father’s paternity (legal fatherhood) has to be established.3 The father and mother can voluntarily acknowledge paternity together by signing and filing an acknowledgment of parentage in front of a notary public or in the hospital at birth.3 Or, either parent can file a paternity petition in court and the judge can order genetic testing and establish paternity through that process.4

Child support can be filed for as part of a divorce, separation, custody, or paternity proceeding, or it can be filed as its own separate action. You can also receive a temporary child support order as part of a 209A abuse prevention order.5

1 M.G.L. 209C § 9; M.G.L. 208 § 28; M.G.L. 209 § 37
2 M.G.L. 209C § 6(a)
3 M.G.L. 209C § 11
4 M.G.L. 209C §§ 2; 17
5 M.G.L. 209A § 3(e)

How long does child support last?

A parent is generally obligated to support his/her child until the age of 18. However, child support can last until the age of 21 if:

  • the child is still living with a parent; and
  • the child is primarily dependent upon that parent.1

1 M.G.L. 209C § 1; M.G.L. 208 § 28

How much child support might I get?

Child support payments are calculated according to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, available on the Massachusetts government website. It is assumed that the amount of the order based on these guidelines is appropriate. A parent, however, could try to convince the judge that it is in the best interests of the child for this amount to be different. If s/he is able to do that, the judge can increase or decrease the amount of child support.1 For more information on how to get your child support order enforced once you have an order in place, visit the Massachusetts Child Support Enforcement website.

1 M.G.L. 209 § 37

Which parent has to provide health care coverage for the child?

If a judge makes a child support order, the judge will also require that either parent provide health care coverage for the child if the coverage is available for the child and is offered at a reasonable cost. A “reasonable cost” is considered to be not more than five percent of the parent’s gross income. The judge can also order that the other parent has to contribute to the cost of the health care coverage and to any medical expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance.

If the child is enrolled in MassHealth, or a similar program in another state, then the parent will be required to keep that child enrolled in the program for as long as the child is eligible. If private insurance is available for the child, in addition to MassHealth, then the judge could order that either parent enroll the child in the private insurance if:

  • the private insurance is available at a reasonable cost;
  • enrollment in the private insurance is in the best interests of the child; and
  • the enrollment does not create an undue hardship for the parents.1

1 M.G.L. 208 § 28; M.G.L. 209 § 37; M.G.L. 209C § 9