In Missouri, a Court may order child support to be paid by one parent to another in divorce cases, legal separation cases, child custody cases and child support cases. (Under certain circumstances, a court may also order temporary support in an Order of Protection case.
Depending on the specific facts of the case, a court may order either or both parents to pay child support. The amount of child support should be the amount reasonable or necessary for the support of the child. In most cases, the court may order the amount of child support retroactive to the date the case was filed. However, in paternity cases, where a child is born out of wedlock and the status of the biological father must be determined by the court, a court may order retroactive child support up to five years.
The factors a court should consider when determining which parent pays child support and the amount of child support are, the financial needs and resources of the child and each parent, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage remained intact, the physical and emotional needs and condition of the child, the educational needs of the child and the amount of time the child spends in each parents custody.
Finally, child support obligations may continue until the child is emancipated, or the age of 21, whichever comes first. Generally speaking, in Missouri child support shall terminate if the child dies, marries, enters into active duty In the Military or otherwise becomes self-supporting and the custodial parent who is receiving support relinquishes the child from parental control by consent. Such consent may be either expressed or implied.
A child is deemed to be emancipated if she is 18 years of age and is no longer attending school (high school, college or some other form of post high school education on a full time basis). If a child is 18 and has graduated from high school, she must be enrolled full-time higher education program by October of the year of graduation or she will be considered emancipated for purposes of child support.
Child support may continue past the child’s 21st birthday (or 18th birthday in the case of a child not attending post-secondary education) on rare occasions, either by agreement of the parents or by order of the court. For the court to order child support beyond the child’s 21st birthday, without agreement of the parents, the court must find that the child is either physically or mentally incapacitated and unable to support herself and that the child is unmarried and otherwise insolvent.
This is just a brief summary of the child support law in Missouri. It is not intended to be legal advice. Each case is unique and it is best to consult a Missouri attorney to find out how the law should apply to any particular case.