Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Child Support and Children in College

In Missouri, a parent’s obligation to pay child support generally ends when the child turns eighteen years old. If the child is enrolled in college, however, the child support obligation may continue if certain conditions are met.

Under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 452.340(5), the child support obligation will continue if the child enrolls in an institution of vocational or higher education prior to the October that follows the child’s graduation from high school. An “institution of vocational education” encompasses any postsecondary schooling or training where the child attends classes on a regular basis for a fee or tuition. An “institution of higher education” includes colleges, community colleges, or universities.

For the support obligation to continue, the child must be enrolled in and complete twelve credit hours each semester. Summer semesters are excluded. If the child withdraws from a course, the credit hours for that course will not count as part of the twelve required hours.

By statute, the child must provide a transcript to each parent at the start of each semester. The transcript, or other official document issued by the institution, must indicate the courses the child has enrolled in and completed for each term. The document must also show the grades and the number of credits the child received for each course. In addition, it must reflect the courses and corresponding credit hours the child has enrolled in for the upcoming semester.

In addition to enrolling in the required number of credit hours, the child must also receive grades that allow the child to remain enrolled at the institution. Failing grades in half or more than half of the child’s courses for any given semester may terminate the payment of child support.

The child is also responsible for providing the noncustodial parent, upon request, with a copy of his or her grades. Such documentation must be provided within thirty days of receipt of grades from the institution. Child support payments may terminate if the child fails to produce the documents in the allotted time.

If circumstances prevent the child from enrolling in twelve credit hours a semester, the requirement may be lessened. A minimum of nine credit hours each semester is required if the child remains employed for fifteen or more hours a week during the course of the semester. A child with a diagnosed developmental disability or health problem that impacts the number of credit hours the child can carry will remain eligible for child support as long as he or she meets all of the other requirements.

Provided the above requirements are met, a parent’s child support obligation shall continue until the child completes his or her education or turns twenty-one years old, whichever happens first. During this time, either the obligated parent or the child can petition the court to amend the order and instruct the obligated parent to make the child support payments directly to the child.

Contributions by Kelly Thompson, Law Clerk