I have an out-of-state child support order, but my child and his other parent moved to Massachusetts. Does this change how long I am obligated to continue paying child support?

Different states have different rules regarding when a parent’s child support obligation ends. In some states, a parent’s child support obligation ends when a child turns 18 years old. In Massachusetts, a parent’s child support obligation generally lasts at least until the child reaches age 18, but could continue until when the child turns 21 if the child is living with a parent and dependent upon that parent, or up until the child turns 23 if the child principally lives with a parent and is dependent upon that parent due to the child’s enrollment in an educational program (excluding educational costs beyond an undergraduate degree). See M.G.L. ch. 208, §28.

Of course, parents and children do not always continue to reside in the state that issued their original child support order. What happens when parents have a child support order from a jurisdiction with different child support duration laws than Massachusetts, but then one or both of the parents moves with the child to Massachusetts after the original child support order issues?  Can a parent try to modify the out-of-state child support order so that it has the same duration provided for under Massachusetts law?

M.G.L. ch. 209D, § 6-611 covers modifications of out-of-state child support orders in situations where a) the child no longer lives in the state that issued the original order; b) the person filing for the modification (the petitioner) does not live in Massachusetts; and c) the other party (the respondent) does live in Massachusetts. When it comes to child support, duration Section 6-611 specifically provides that:

(c) A tribunal of the commonwealth may not modify any aspect of a child support order that may not be modified under the law of the issuing state, including the duration of the obligation of support…

(d) In a proceeding to modify a child support order, the law of the state that is determined to have issued the initial controlling order governs the duration of support. The obligor’s fulfillment of the duty of support established by that order precludes imposition of a further obligation of support by a tribunal of the commonwealth.

In the case Freddo v. Freddo, the Massachusetts Appeals Court determined that Section 6-611(c) applies even in situations where both of the parents and the child move to Massachusetts. In that case, the Appeals Court ordered that the Massachusetts court could not modify the duration of a child support order that originally issued in another state.

In short, although parents can seek a modification of an out-of-state child support order for other reasons, they cannot modify the child support duration to conform to Massachusetts law. The original jurisdiction’s laws concerning child support duration control, even if both of the parents and the child now live in Massachusetts.


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