Missouri law is very clear and specific about child support after a child reaches 18 or is graduated from high school.
By way of background, if a child is 18 and enrolled in and attending a secondary school program of instruction (high school or its equivalent), the obligation to pay child support will continue so long as the child continues to attend and progresses toward completion of the program, until the child completes the program (typically graduation from high school) or reaches age 21. If the child is insolvent, unmarried, and physically or mentally incapable of supporting themselves, the court may extend the parental obligation to support the child. It is best to seek this extension of the obligation to support as soon as possible, particularly before the child’s 21st birthday.
If a child is enrolled in and attending a secondary program of instruction (college/university or vocational school) by October 1st following graduation from high school or receipt of a GED, the obligation to support that child will continue until the child graduates or turns 21, subject to the following requirements:
- The child must enroll in and complete twelve (12) hours each semester (not including the summer), with an exceptions for any child working 15 or more hours a week must only enroll in and complete 9 hours a semester and certain disabled children, for whom there is no minimum hourly requirement
- The child must receive sufficient grades to reenroll at the institution they are attending
- At the beginning of each semester the child must provide an official document such as a transcript from the institution showing the classes in which the child is enrolled and the courses completed for the previous term and the grades and credits received for each course
The law provides that the court may waive the October 1st deadline for enrollment when the circumstances of the child manifestly dictate (I have seen situations like injury or illness and failure to succeed in military service and a parent’s failure to make a payment required for enrollment to be reasons for waiving the October 1 deadline).
Either the child or the parent obligated to pay support may file a petition requesting the court to pay support directly to the child who is meeting the requirements for continued support.
The law provides that the court may reallocate who claims the tax dependency exemption for a child in order to maximize the financial aid available to the child. It is unclear what impact this will have now that the tax exemption for children does not exist in the same form as when this law was passed.