When a court enters a divorce judgment and orders one parent to pay child support, both parents–the one obligated to pay as well as the support recipient–often wonder when the support obligation ends. Missouri’s child support laws are different from those of many other states, in that child support obligations will, under certain circumstances, continue well past high school.
Child support obligations generally extend at least until a child turns 18 years old or obtains a high school diploma, whichever happens later. So if a child had to repeat a grade and is now 19 years old and in his senior year of high school, as long as he continues to work towards a high school diploma and has not turned 21 years old, the child support continues to be due each month.
Once a child finishes high school, the child support obligation will end unless that child enrolls in “an institution of vocational or higher education” no later than the first day of October. The child support obligation will continue to be due as long as the child remains enrolled in school and completes at least 12 hours of coursework per term, with passing grades in at least half of the course load. Once the child reaches age 21 or “completes his or her education,” whichever comes first, the child support obligation ends.
We get a lot of questions regarding this topic so we have written an article on this topic that you can read by following this link to Child Support After High School and Other Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support. The article expands further on the above comments as well as answering:
- Can I pay the support directly to my child who is in college?
- Must a child who has a job during the term still enroll and complete 12 hours of coursework?
- If my child fails a class, does this mean child support ends?
- Does the 12 hour requirement include classes taken during the summer term?
- What is my child required to provide to both parents, prior to October first of the first term in college or vocational education, to remain eligible for continued support?
- Does my child have to personally provide transcript information for each term?
- What is considered the “beginning” of the semester?
- What are the consequences if my child fails to provide the proper documentation?
- Are there any exceptions to the requirement that a child must satisfy certain minimum credit hour requirements to continue receiving child support during college?
- What happens if a child fails to provide notification for more than one term, but the parent keeps paying? Can that parent receive a refund of the money they paid?
- If I think I should not be paying child support because my child has not given me proper or timely notice, can I just stop paying?
- What if a child receives an incomplete, causing the child to fall below the credit hour requirements?
There are many more issues to consider before child support is terminated and this should be discussed with an experienced family law lawyer before a party stops paying child support.