Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
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Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)
314.727.4880

Readers Object To Senate Bill Lowering The Age When Child Support Payments Can Be Stopped

Wow! Last week’s column regarding Missouri Senate Bill #25 must have hit a nerve. I began receiving emails the same day it was published objecting to the bill, which still awaits Governor Matt Blunt’s signature as of this writing, and which lowers from age 22 to 21 the last date by which a parent can be obligated to pay child support for an off-spring still in school.

 

Under the law still in effect, pending the Governor’s action, support must be paid for children past age 18 if they are still in school until the child turns 22, assuming the youngster meets the law’s other requirements regarding credit hours, grades, etc. Two types of support can be required. All parents are obligated to pick up basic costs of living—food, clothing, shelter etc., while parents with the financial resources to do so, can also be ordered to pick up the educational costs of tuition, books and dormitory expense.

 

The current law has been in effect for so long that most parenting plans never even mention age 22 as the cut-off date. Courts, attorneys and parents have all assumed and abided by this limitation. If the Governor signs SB 25, this will all change and the senior class entering college this fall could be the first adversely affected as most are likely to be age 21 by then.

 

A reader and a retired lawyer emailed me saying, “I believe this legislation reflects a continuing trend among many parents (divorced or not) to gain ‘relief’ from paying for their children's needs.”  She went on to write: “A trend exists to delay children's entry into the educational system. Children now enter kindergarten having already reached the age of six in districts where they must turn five before August 1 or even July 1.”

 

The reader continues: “… some districts, rather than addressing issues of athletic overemphasis and cruelty among students,  permit parents to delay kindergarten entry so their child will be a better candidate for athletic teams or less likely to be bullied. A late start in school means, of course, that a child will be older as he or she approaches college graduation.”

 

Another reader wrote as follows: “My ex-husband does everything possible to duck his legal obligations and this would be the icing on his cake.  He can easily afford it but would definitely pull this card if available.  This is down right insane...who are the courts protecting here?  And who are they hurting?  Where did this bill originate?  Are we going backwards in time? Hello, kids these days grow up slower, not faster and cannot support themselves and put themselves through the last year.”

 

The day after last week’s article appeared, I checked the Governor’s web-site and then contacted his office to learn if the he had signed or intended to sign SB 25. After three days, as of this writing, I had not heard back.

 

You can be sure that if the cut-off age is lowered, there will be a flurry of litigation on both sides petitioning the courts to either extend child support to age 22 despite the new law, or to release a parent from his/her support obligation given that their child has reached aged 21. In most cases, I suspect the courts will rule that the new limit applies unless age 22 was specifically identified in the original court order as the termination point.

 

Parents may argue that it was the intent of the parties that the support be extended until age 22, but the court would likely respond that it can’t discern intent unless it is explicitly spelled out in the order.