Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)
314.727.4880

Governor Is Still Reviewing Bill That Lowers Age When Child Support Can Be Stopped

I continued to receive emails from readers concerned about Senate Bill 25, passed this spring by the Missouri Legislature, and which now sits atop Governor Matt Blunt’s desk awaiting his approval.

 

As readers of this column over the past two weeks already know, SB 25 contains a provision that would lower from 22 to 21, the age at which a parent is no longer obligated to pay child support for a child still in school. With an effective date of August 28, 2007, should the measure become law, hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of Missouri kids may be scrambling just as the fall term begins trying to replace the tuition and dorm payments a parent had been supplying, should that parent decide to opt out under SB 25.

 

For the most part, these students will be entering their senior year, having graduated high school three years earlier at age 18, and will already be 21.

 

The Governor’s Press Secretary, Jessica Robinson, told me that the Governor had not yet decided what to do about SB 25. “It is still under review”, said Robinson. Nor would she indicate whether the Governor was aware of this particular part of the bill, replying again that “it was still under review”. Ms. Robinson did confirm that the Governor has three options available to him: sign the bill, veto the bill, or allow it to pass into law without his signature. He cannot veto or approve only specific portions. If he takes no action on SB 25 before July 15, it will become law automatically.

 

Several of the emails I received were from one parent worried that the other parent would take the early exit afforded by SB 25 even though both had understood implicitly, under the current law, that the support payments would continue until age 22. Unfortunately, the language in virtually every decree I am aware of does not mention a specific age for the termination of child support. Instead, it uses language passed down from a 1989 case, Echele v. Echele, which mandates that a parent not be obligated to pay for more than 8 semesters of college.

 

So, what should a concerned parent do? First, check the due dates for your child’s college expenses. With so many schools starting classes in late August, it is possible that their tuition, books and on-campus living expenses will be due before the new law’s August 28th effective date. Expenses due on August 27th for a child that is age 21 on that date are covered under the current law no matter what the Governor does about SB 25.

 

For family law attorneys, this episode will cause us to sharpen our pencils when crafting the parenting plans that we recommend to the court. We must sway judges to approve plans that obligate parents to pay their child’s college expenses until the earlier of when the child graduates from college, completes eight semesters, or reaches age 23. That’s right, I said age 23! The current law, passed well before I began practicing law, didn’t make a lot of sense given that so many kids reach age 22 part of the way through their last year in college.

 

Of course, not every lawyer will see it my way, particularly those representing a parent reluctant to pick up these costs. Such parents will insist that their obligation not extend one day past the age mandated by law. And that, folks, will be the far-reaching impact of SB 25 if the Governor doesn’t it strike it down. It will give many parents the permission to set age 21 as the cut-off date for paying for their kid’s college expenses. Does anyone know of a good 3-year baccalaureate program out there?