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Does Child Support Extend Through College?

Posted by Joshua Wilson | Mar 02, 2020 | 0 Comments

Child support in Missouri is supposed to provide for the financial needs and resources of the child. Child support considers the child's educational needs and the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved. Generally, parents are expected to financially provide for the child until the child reaches age 18. However, child support can extend beyond the age of 18 for educational purposes.  

If you have any questions about child support payments or parenting agreements in Missouri, talk to experienced family law attorney Joshua Wilson today

Child Support Through College Education

When children are young, divorcing parents are generally focused on visitation, child custody plans, and the current needs of the child. However, parents should also be thinking about the long-term and future needs of the child, including the high costs of a college education. It can be difficult to know how much to set aside for the future when college costs depend so much on:

  • Private vs. public school, 
  • In-state vs. out-of-state tuition, and
  • Financial aid opportunities.

However, even if parents do not plan for college funding, their child support obligations may continue after the child turns 18 if the child is pursuing higher education. Under Missouri Revised Statute § 452.340, the obligation of a parent to make child support payments shall terminate when the child reaches age 18, unless the child is enrolled in an institution or vocational or higher education not later than October 1st following graduation from secondary school. 

To qualify, the child needs to complete at least 12 hours of credit each semester, not including the summer semester. The child also has to achieve grades sufficient to re-enroll at the institution. When the child is attending a qualifying higher education institution, the child support obligations continue until the child completes his or her education or until the child reaches the age of 21, whichever occurs first. 

The child is to submit to each parent a transcript by the institution which includes the courses enrolled in and completed, and grades and credits received. The child is also to submit courses for which the child is enrolled for the upcoming term. When the child receives failing grades in half or more of the course load in any one semester, payment of child support may be terminated and is not eligible for reinstatement. 

Does the Other Parent Get Child Support for the College Student?

The noncustodial parent of a college student may not want the child support payments to continue going to the custodial parent. Under the Missouri child support laws, if the child is enrolled in an institution of vocational or higher education, “the child or parent obligated to pay support may petition the court to amend the order to direct the obligated parent to make the payments directly to the child.” 

Planning Ahead for Children's College Needs 

Parents may also make alternative arrangements for their children's educational needs after they legally become adults. In addition to college savings plans, a parenting plan can include provisions for educational expenses. While parents cannot generally pay less than required by a child support order, they can provide more. 

Parents may want to make plans for helping cover the child's educational costs as part of a separation agreement. Options for parents planning for college, university, or vocational schooling may include: 

  • Putting money aside monthly in an account; 
  • 529 education plan; 
  • Taking out parental loans for college expenses; 
  • Agreeing to a set amount; or
  • Paying tuition and/or living expenses. 

What Qualifies as “Higher Education”?

Not all post-secondary education may qualify as an institution of vocational or higher education that continues the obligation for child support. If the child is not enrolled by October 1 in a qualifying school, then the child support obligation may end, even if the child later enrolls in a qualifying school. However, the court may waive the October 1st deadline for enrollment. 

An “institution of vocational education” means any postsecondary training or schooling for which the student is assessed a fee and attends classes regularly. “Higher education” includes any college, community college, or university at which the child attends classes regularly.

If you have any questions about child support obligations and payments for children going to college, contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm in Raymore, Missouri.

About the Author

Joshua Wilson

Divorce is complex and highly emotional. Everything is going to change, including your most important personal relationships, your finances, your daily routine, and -- of course -- your home life. This can be a stressful time, and the parties involved often are not thinking clearly. You need some...

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