Am I paying arrears if I’m paying child support for a 21-year-old?

Question: My daughter will be 21 in February. What steps do I need to take to get the support modified since my ex will no longer be able to get support of her?

Do I need to hire an attorney for this process or can it be handled by me through the Division of Family Services?



That your daughter is over age 18 suggests to me that you are paying arrears on past due child support, education expenses or some other support unique to your order. Read your order carefully to determine what type of support you are paying and whether it terminates automatically.

For example, some support orders have a triggering event (such as the child no longer being a full-time student) to terminate support. If so, then you should contact Family Services immediately to learn what documentation you need to provide. If your case is more complex and you actually need to modify your support obligation, I discourage you from handling the case on your own. You are not expected to know the procedural rules for these types of motions (just as you are not expected to know how to perform your own surgery), but the court will treat you like an attorney and expect you to know them and what to allege for a legally sufficient basis to modify support.

For arrears, most states restrict the extent you can retroactively modify the support order. You may have a good argument to discharge your arrears or to enter a payment plan depending on the facts of your case. Courts are more likely to modify support and/or the payment plan and/or discharge arrears if the payor’s financial circumstances change (e.g., if you lose your job). The modification and discharge criteria vary by state. You should consult with an attorney in your area to discuss what options, if any, you have based on the particular orders and facts in your case.

Keep in mind that I am a Michigan attorney and cannot give you detailed advice about the laws in Missouri. You should not rely on this answer as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area immediately if you need additional information or legal representation, as most parties in custody cases do. Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed and located in Missouri.


Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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