children-in-collegeMost people know that child support usually ends somewhere around the child’s 18th birthday but are a little unclear as to exactly when or how it should end.  While every situation is unique, we’ve put together the following guidelines to help clear up the confusion of when child support ends.

From a legal standpoint, the question is answered by the Revised Statutes of Missouri §452.340.5:

If when a child reaches age eighteen, the child is enrolled in and attending a secondary school program of instruction, the parental support obligation shall continue, if the child continues to attend and progresses toward completion of said program, until the child completes such program or reaches age twenty-one, whichever first occurs.

So, generally speaking…
If your child has reached age 18 and isn’t going to college:  child support ends at the 18th birthday.
If your child has reached age 18 and is going to college:  child support continues to the 21st birthday.
To continue receiving child support when the child is going to college:

  • The child must be enrolled in an institution by October 1st following graduation from high school to be eligible for continued parental support. 
  • The child must be enrolled in a full time program, i.e., 12 hours of credit per semester, and must receive grades that qualify him/her to reenroll the following semester. 

What if my son/daughter is a full-time college student but is failing some courses?
If the student fails to successfully complete 12 credit hours per semester, child support may be terminated. 

What if my son/daughter is a part-time college student but also works?
If the student is employed and working more than 15 hours per week during the semester, the required number of credit hours per semester may be as few as nine for the student to remain eligible for child support.

What information is the parent paying child support entitled to?
The parent who pays child support for his/her college aged child is entitled to information regarding the child’s academic schedule and grades.  The parent should request from the student his/her intended course of study for the upcoming semester and should request the grades earned at the end of the semester.  If the child fails to produce the requested documents, the court may grant a parent’s request for termination of the child support obligation. 

What if my child is disabled?
There are exceptions to the rules stated above when a child has been diagnosed with developmental or physical disabilities or has health problems that may limit the child’s ability to meet the number of credit hours prescribed.  However, even in those cases, the other requirements must be met.

How to End Child Support
Just as important as the determination of how long child support continues is the matter of how it should end.  In Missouri, either parent can file an Affidavit to Terminate Child Support but it is the parent receiving child support that has the obligation to do so. 

 In some situations, the paying parent has continued to pay child support past the point of obligation.  So what happens in those instances?  When child support has been paid past the point of obligation, the Court may:

1.       Consider the extra payments a gift and the receiving parent gets to keep the money; OR
2.       Order that the receiving parent reimburse the paying parent for the amount of the overpayment.

 As is the case with all legal situations, there are always exceptions to the rule and this post cannot possibly cover every scenario.  If you have questions regarding child support in Missouri or need help ending child support, give us a call at 314.863.9955 to arrange for a confidential consultation.

About 

Kathleen E. Shaul concentrates her practice exclusively in family law with an emphasis in divorce litigation. Prior to attending law school, Ms. Shaul taught high school English in Chicago. She is a certified Guardian ad Litem and is passionate about children’s issues.