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

Working Dad Tired of Paying Child Support for Kid in College Asks About Senate Bill 25

Several weeks back, I wrote a series of columns about Senate Bill 25 that passed the Missouri legislature this past spring and becomes effective August 28, 2007. Among its provisions was one that lowered from age 22 to 21, the final date that support payments must be made for a child that is still enrolled in school. As I wrote then, the law raises the possibility that many parents will opt out of continuing to support their children just as they are about to enter the final year or two of college.


Now comes an email from “Jon” saying: “You wrote that at the end of August a new law would go into effect concerning the obligation for child support payments past the age of 21. My current third child is still receiving it past 21 because he is in college. He has money of his own already from a trust and his mother is wealthy. I am tired of working for a living and continuing to have to pay this.”


Although not asked, the implicit question in Jon’s e-mail is “what can I do now”.


For starters, Jon needs to know that any support payments for college expenses, such as tuition, room and board, books, that were due prior to August 28th, will continue to be his obligation as determined under the old law. However, support payments due after that date may no longer be required as per SB 25.


Jon should start by reviewing the specific language of the support agreement. Is his obligation tied to a specific age without reference to the state’s legal age of emancipation? That has typically been the case in many decrees. They were simply written to say that the support would continue to age 22 without actually referencing the state deadline because that has been the law in Missouri for so many years. If that is the case here, Jon’s duty is likely a contractual one unaffected by the new bill.


However, if the decree says that the support is to be paid until age 22 and/or until the child is emancipated, then Jon can seek to have his offspring declared emancipated. He would do that by filing a motion with his county’s Circuit Clerk’s office using a fill-in-the-blanks form they provide. Assuming the other parent agrees and signs the form, that will be the end of it. Otherwise, he may have to go to court to prove up his case using the new state law as his basis.


Incidentally, any parent believing their child support obligation is lawfully completed because their child is now emancipated, should follow this same procedure.


But, let’s return to Jon’s situation. His letter references that his child is blessed with both a trust fund and a wealthy mom. Should it be determined that his kid remains entitled to support, Jon could consider filing a motion to modify his child support obligation. What Jon probably does not know is that by law his son’s resources (i.e. the trust) are to be tapped first to pay for his college expenses unless the trust specifically prohibits this use. Further, the assets or income of the mom are also to be considered in relation to dad’s in allocating the support obligation.


Now that Jon knows that he has options for getting out from under what he obviously considers a burdensome obligation, it would be interesting to know if he actually chooses to do so, particularly so close to the finish line. Will it be more gratifying to support his boy all the way up to graduation or to know that he didn’t pay one cent more than he had to this last year or two?