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When Does My Missouri Child Support Order Terminate?

momandsongraduation.jpgFor parents who are either paying or are receiving child support, knowing how long the financial responsibility of child support continues is critical to the financial planning of their family. The answer to the question of how long this obligation continues depends upon multiple factors related to your child.

Family law attorneys and judges often refer to the age when child support ends as the age of “emancipation“. By Statute, the age of emancipation in Missouri is when the child reaches 18 years. However, that age can be extended beyond a child’s 18th birthday in many circumstances.

If your child is enrolled in a secondary school (high school or the equivalent) and is attending that school, the child support obligation will continue until the child graduates or stops attending school or turns 21 years old, whichever is first to occur. For example if your son or daughter turns 18 in September of their final year of high school, so long as your child continues to attend high school, the child support order will be continued until their final day of school or graduation. Likewise, if that child stops attending school before graduation then the child support obligation will terminate at that time.

For those children who decide to continue their education and enroll in college or the equivalent, such as a trade school, by October 1st after their graduation from high school or their acquiring of a general equivalency degree (G.E.D.), the child support obligation may continue also until that child’s 21st birthday. However, in order for the obligation to continue from semester to semester the child must demonstrate that they are attending school and are making progress towards the completion of his or her program of study. This is done by enrolling in at least 12 hours each semester and successfully completing at least one-half of those hours. Further if the child is working at least 15 hours per week while attending a post-secondary school, the child may enroll in as few as 9 hours per semester and not be emancipated for the purposes of child support. (Note: in our next blog, we will discuss the concept of when a child support obligation “abates” for reasons of not providing sufficient post-secondary academic records to the paying parent.)

Transcript-image.jpgin Missouri, determining if the child has satisfied his or her academic obligations thereby entitling the custodial parent to continue to receive child support beyond the child’s completion high school or the equivalent is often the central issue in litigation for both the paying parent and the receiving parent. This litigation typically includes a very close examination of the child’s academic record. If you have questions about whether or not your child’s academic record will impact your child support obligation or entitlement, you should discuss that record with your family law attorney.

If your child is faced with circumstances beyond his or her control which prevent your child from strictly complying with the academic requirements in our Missouri statute, and thereby extending the child support obligation beyond your child’s 18th birthday, your Missouri family court judge may not require strict compliance with the academic requirements in our statute to continue the child support obligation. Visit our blog again soon for a discussion of these “manifest circumstances“.

Finally, a Missouri child support obligation may continue even beyond a child’s 21st birthday if that child is unmarried, insolvent and physically or mentally incapacitated and incapable of becoming self-supporting. Your Missouri family law judge will almost certainly need to rely, at least in part, on medical evidence which proves that the child is physically or mentally incapacitated and unable to support himself in these circumstances.

As you can see, the age of emancipation in Missouri depends upon a number of variables dealing with the academic and medical circumstances of your child. For a detailed discussion about the specific circumstances of your situation please contact my office today for a consultation.