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Ending a child support order

Sometimes it is clear when a child support order ends. The order may say that it ends on a particular date, or the date a child turns 18, 21 or 23.

Both you and the other parent can tell the order has ended. On that date, you do not have to pay or get any more child support.

But sometimes it is not so clear:

  • It may be hard to find where the order says child support ends because child support can be part of a bigger decision. For example, a judge can order child support as part of another case like divorce. Somewhere in the judgment, there may be a decision about child support.
  • The order may not say when child support ends.
  • Or, the order may say something that one parent thinks means one thing and the other parent disagrees. For example, the order may say something like “child support will continue until youngest child is emancipated.” You could think your child is no longer financially dependent, but the other parent could think he still is.

If both parents do not agree the order has ended, then going to court to get a judge to decide may be the best thing to do. If both parents agree it may still be the best thing to ask the court to end the order – for example if you and the other parent decide to live together again. See

Asking the court to end the order

If it is not clear that the child support order should end, the court needs to understand why the order should end. What is different now? What has changed so that the order should end?

Some common reasons for ending a child support order are:

  1. your child stops living with the parent who gets child support;
  2. your child starts living with the parent who pays child support;
  3. parents get back together; or
  4. your child is no longer financially dependent on either parent.

In each of these examples, there has been a change from when the court first made the order. To ask the court to end the order you file a Complaint for Modification. The Complaint for Modification asks the court to change the order so that it is clear that the order should end. 

What happens if I get back together with the other parent? 

If you get back together with the other parent and neither of you goes to court to change the child support order, nothing will happen. Child Support Enforcement will still collect payments. The payor’s employer will still take child support out of the paycheck. But you can ask the court to end the child support order. Before you ask the court to end the order, make sure you both agree that:

  1. you are back together, and
  2.  the child support order should end.

If both of you do not agree that you are back together again, the court can decide. 

Often when parents say that they are “back together” they mean that they are living together again. The court uses the word “reconciled” to mean that parents are back together.

But, sometimes parents get “back together” but do not live together. 

Not living together

Sometimes you “get back together” with the other parent but you do not live together. Think carefully about ending a child support order if you do not live together.

Living together

Sometimes you get back together with the other parent and decide to live together. You may decide you do not need a child support order anymore..

The court can agree to end the child support order. The court can also decide not to end the child support order.

When the court ends a child support order, how far back does it go?

When the court ends a child support order, the new order ending the child support goes back to the date the Complaint for Modification was “served”. The “served” date is the date that the other parent gets the complaint.

If you and the other parent filed a Joint Petition for Modification of a Child Support Judgment, the new order ending the child support goes back to the date you filed the petition.

Child support does not end on the date you reconciled. The Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement will still collect any payments that were due up to the date of serving the complaint or filing the petition.

For example

  • You are the parent that pays child support.
  • You get back together with the other parent July 12th
  • You file a Complaint for Modification on August 20th.
  • The other parent gets the Summons and Complaint on August 24th.
  • The court ends your child support order on September 18th.

You stop paying child support August 24th, not on July 12th.

Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp
Last Updated May 2013

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