Child Support: When Does It Ever End?

By Molly Murphychild support, divorce


Cordell & Cordell, P.C., Jefferson City, Mo., office

If you have an order of child support against you, you are aware that it needs to be paid every month.  Many clients wonder when their child support is going to end.

For example, in the State of Missouri, there are several different ways that child support can end, or be terminated.

Read on for all the ways available to end paying child support.

Emancipation in the State of Missouri is governed by statute and case law.  The law states that unless the circumstances of the child manifestly dictate otherwise and the Court specifically so provides, that child support ends when the child dies, marries, enters active duty in the military, becomes self-supporting, reaches eighteen (unless they fall into exceptions) or reaches the age of twenty-one.  Self-supporting means that the custodial parent has relinquished the minor child from parental control by express or implied consent.  An example of this is when the custodial parent is no longer bearing the majority of the minor child’s expenses.  It can also mean the minor child has moved out and has established a separate residence.

Twenty-one is the age of emancipation in the State of Missouri.  However, some orders can extend the date of emancipation past the child’s twenty-first birthday to the age of twenty-two, when a certain amount of semesters in college have been reached, or when a child receives a degree.  To know for sure, clients need to check their original order, or consult with an attorney.

A caveat to the above applies when the child is physically or mentally incapacitated from supporting himself, insolvent and unmarried, the court may extend child support past the child’s eighteenth or twenty-first birthday.  At this point some parents seek legal guardianship over their child.  If you are interested in that option, please speak to a probate attorney.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

The majority of my clients fall into the specifics of the college exceptions.  When a minor child reaches eighteen, and the child is enrolled in and attending a secondary school program of instruction, the child support shall continue.  It continues only if the child continues to attend and progress toward completion of said program.  Child support ends when the child completes the program, or twenty-one, whichever first occurs.  However, the minor child now also has several obligations for said child support to continue.  The child must be enrolled in said school by Oct. 1 or Feb. 1 following graduation from high school or an equivalent program.  The Court reserves the right to waive the deadline if the circumstances dictate.

The child must be enrolled for and complete twelve hours of classes each semester.  They must achieve high enough grades to be reenrolled for the next semester.  Further, to remain eligible for support, the child must submit to each parent a transcript or other similar official document from their school which includes the courses the child is currently enrolled in and has completed, the grades and credits received for each course, AND an official document from the school that lists the courses and credits in which the child is enrolled.  These documents must be submitted by the beginning of each semester by the child.  This cannot be sent by the custodial parent to the parent paying support.  If the child does not do this, the child will be considered emancipated.

Another important portion of the law states that if the child receives failing grades in half or more of his course load in one semester, payment of child support can be terminated.  This does not refer to course credits.  Every university, college or trade school handles failing grades differently.  Some give the child an incomplete or give them the class credit.  The law addresses solely grades.

Further, at any time, the non-custodial, or paying parent, may request the required documents from the minor child.  The child shall produce said documents within thirty days of receipt of their grades.  If the child fails to produce the documents, child support can terminate.

There are a few exceptions to the above rules.  One applies when a child is employed for at least fifteen hours per week during the semester, they are only obligated to take nine hours of credit a semester and pass.  Further, a child who has been diagnosed with a developmental disability, or whose physical disability or health problem limits the child’s ability to carry twelve hours per semester, will still be eligible for child support if they are meeting all the other requirements of the law.

And please don’t forget:  at any time, the parent paying support may petition the court to amend their order and have the parent pay the child directly.

When your child is indeed emancipated, do not assume someone else will end this obligation.  The burden to end the child support is on the parent or party receiving the support.  However, traditionally neither they nor the State of Missouri will end your obligation.  I would suggest you contact an attorney or the Circuit Clerk’s office.  In the State of Missouri, a party can fill out a form and have the other party served with it.  If the opposing party agrees that support should end or the child is the age of twenty-one, the support then ends.

Margaret “Molly” P. Murphy is an Associate Attorney in the Arnold, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. where she practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Murphy is admitted to practice law in the state of Missouri. Ms. Murphy was born and raised in St. Louis. She received her B.A. in Political Science and English Language and Literature in 1998 from the University of Tulsa where she graduated magna cum laude. Ms. Murphy received her Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2001.

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38 comments on “Child Support: When Does It Ever End?

    My boyfriend has 2 sons, 18 and 20. The 20 dropped out of school, and the other one turned 18 2mths ago. He has always had his child support pmts taken out of his check. He went to court to petition that the support be stopped since neither is in school and of age but their Mother keeps stalling. He has had to pay a lawyer to get the pmt to stop. He had a court day today and sure enough the Mother didn’t show, so the courts issued her a 25 day continuance. How long will she be able to drag this out?? We are in IL.

    My son will turn 19 in August. He still lives with his mother (at her parents home). He is no longer in school and has a job. He recently applied for a new job where he could, potentially make more money than I do. The emancipation age for NY is 21. Should he get this new job, am I still obligated to pay his mother or would I have sufficient grounds to terminate payments?

    My step daughter will be 17 in May. She has been living with her boyfriend and his parents for the last 6 months. Her boyfriend and his parents pay for all her living expenses. My husband continues to pay child support to my step daughter’s mother despite my step daughter no longer living with her. Her mother is unfit to care for her, they do not get along and she does not wish to move 2 hours away to live with us and be away from her family and boyfriend. Since she no longer lives with her mother, the custodial parent, does Missouri law consider her emancipated and how long will child support need to continue?

    Yes I have a 16 & 17 year old that is attending a non credited high school program here in TN…for no apparent reason just because. Could my child support be reduce because of them going to a non credited high school? I ask reduce because I still have a 14 year old that is included in my child support amount that does go to a public credited state school.

    I work for a college in St. Louis and I pay chil support for my child. I have the luxury of having my child’s college completely paid for. Since by working where I do and being able to offer this service can I quit paying support at 18 or pay less?

    I received my divorce in Illinois and my ex moved to NY with our children. I soon left Illinois and moved to NY to be closer to my children but after a few years I became ill and moved to Missouri to be with my family as I could no longer work. In our divorce decree we had a provision for child support and a provision in the divorce decree that stated support would stop if I became unemployed. In may of 2014 I became ill and moved in with my mother in Missouri and per my divorce decree stopped paying child support. I was soon served support paperwork from NY, after the hearing with the support magistrate I received a letter of fact findings which stated that I was NOT disabled even though I am on veteran disablity and that I would pay support base off what I made the following year ,plus 60% of daycare, and medical expenses. I have a attorney in NY that is filing objection now but with the new support order I have no money to support myself. I am not apposed to paying support but I believe it should be based of what my current income is. Is there anything that can be done in Missouri? Can anyone help me please?

    Paying custodial parent after child goes to college
    I need help explaining to my ex-husband why he has to continue to pay child support to me while our son will be away at college. He thinks that he should be able to pay our son directly since he won’t be at home. He doesn’t understand that just because he’s going to be away that there aren’t expenses at home that need to be covered. I claim my son on my taxes and my income will be what determines his financial aid package. I’ve tried explaining all of this but I’m continuously met with, “You just want the money so you can control how it’s used!” I’ve even said that this statement is correct. As the custodial parent it’s my job to make sure that between myself and the child support that he pays the money is being used properly. Also it’s insane to think that a kid should be given $650 a month while away at school to do whatever he pleases with it!! I also told him that if he feels that the money he pays is being misused to file a modification to pay him directly. He said he just wants to pay him while at school then me while he’s home.
    Please any advice would be extremely helpful!!!

    What makes you think you deserve any money from him anyway? You’re using your son’s father the money should go to the child who is of legal age.

    There is a loophole that says you can not be sued, funds can not be taken from Veterans funds. My dad had his bank account taken from a law suit and the court ordered it to be returned due to the fact that it was VA funds. The law does protect it.

    Trying to help my friend
    My friend is paying child support on 3 children to his ex wife, he has not seen his oldest son in a year and he turns 18 soon. Will he have to continue paying child support or is there something he can do to try to lower his payments from him not seeing his son. His son refuses to see him due to the son not liking the rules at his dads house, and not being allowed to play video games whenever.

    I can’t afford it
    I don’t know what to do I can not afford to pay the more I try the more I owe. Now I am facing jail time. I never get to see my daughter who I love very much so I have not had the opportunity to even take care of her myself. Is there anything I can do?

    Support Missouri
    I have a daughter who will be 18 December .. She dropped out of high school January 2014. Moved out from January till end of Febuary 2014.. She tried GED course on line and quit that as well .. Now says she is registered to attend GED course and a CMA course . I have joint custody how ever she refuses to see,me.. Also refuses to send registration .. I pay support by check and have never stopped.. Does support end in December or do I have to hire a attorney .. Her mother will never agree to stopping support..

    Back child support
    I’m currently ordered to pay $1,600 monthly in back child support for a child that paternity was never established. My arrearages Totaling over $95,000. The child is now 21years old. I not able to support my minor children in the home with the monthly payments so high I only bring in $2,300Monthly plus I have another child support case for my daughter that’s 23years old another $23,000 back support and a order for $500Monthly. They expect me to pay $2,100 Monthly.That Leave me with $200 for me to support my 2 minor kids I have in the home with me. Every time I go to court to have it reduced it gets raised. HELP what do I do?

    Joint custody
    I have joint physical custody of my daughter. Her mother has custodial custody. Her mom makes more money than I do and is asking for child support. I thought shild support was to even out the house hold incomes of the houses for the child as if the divorce didn’t happen. How can I be ordered to pay when her mom makes 25-40% more Than I do and I have a week on week off schedule.

    I have unfortunate situation, many years 18 to be exact I was advised that I had fathered a child. I had gone to the hospital and the woman I had an encounter with informed that this was not my child. However for the last 4 years I have been dealing with CES, phone hearings and now child is 18 (capable of making her own decisions); and I have yet to meet or establish anything with child. The mother has declined any involvement for myself with child. I have been paying monthly & never late on time and paid a lump sum from the day I had found out it was actually mine. Now I might have to continue to pay for someone I never get to see or establish relations with. I do not feel since I never married or had ever had any involvement with mother or child for this period of time should I have to continue paying. I’m happily married (7 yrs); and have one adopted child and 1 biological child and they are the greatest thing ever.
    Not fair that the mother has vindictively manipulated this child in her sick realm, one day I pray the good lord will give her a taste of her own medicine on her day of judgement. What person could honestly cheat a parent out of knowing there child all this time, and then go through steps just to get money…. (selfish) There should be laws to protect fathers that are blind sided against gold-diggers…
    Unfortunately the one whom is cheated most by the mothers actions is the child.
    applied for termination of child support haven’t received any official paperwork that child is maintaining passing grades or that she is enrolled in college.

    Adult Child Support
    At what point does child support end with my two disabled sons? My ex-wife obtained guardianship of both boys in the state of Kansas where they have lived for 15+ years, but our child support and custody orders were in the state of Missouri. Both boys received SSI payments as well as child support from me well in excess of their listed monetary needs. I attempted to have support modified or ended two years ago and ended up paying even more. Is there eventually an end or will I be paying child support when I retire?

    pointer v. Venita Washington case no 0922-cc1274 Division 14
    I need an attorney to help stop the back support on my two daughters. Their mother took them to Colorado without informing me and I have not seen them in about nine years. For years their mother failed to let me see my kids even when a deal was made between our attorneys for me to see them at the juvenile facility in St. Louis. She did not live up to the agreement and never brought them there. I informed their lawyer Mr.Moton about it.They are 28 and 27 years old and I still pay $ 200 dollars a month back child support. She has violated Missouri Revised Statute 452-340. I filed an alius summons to have Venita served in court last week. I argued this case before the 22th Missouri Court of Appeals and they said I should have requested a permanent injunction instead of a temporary one but informed me about the above Missouri statute. I was not in court on March 17 ,1991 when the court order was made on me. I was served but asked Judge Hough to give me more time to get an attorney and she sent my letter back to me stamped. Venita went to court with her attorney and did not tell me anything about it. No form 14 was made to determine if I could pay $ 500 dollars a month and I got a chance to argue the issue with child support officials and the support was dropped to $ 200 dollars a month. I was given no part in discussing visitation rights. I never got a chance to see my kids’ grades while they were in school after graduation from high school and they did not go right to college after graduation. My younger daughter Kalah graduated from Joplin Christian College and my older daughter Benica earned a certificate in early childhood education which they told me when they called me last week. I need some help with this because Venita did not tell me she was taking my kids across state lines and I never got a chance to see them but has paid back child support up to now. MY telephone number is 314-389-3719 and my address is 4771 Maffit, St.Louis, Missouri. Two months ago child support people called and asked if Venita was staying with me as my wife and I said no. Venita lied to them saying she lived with me to get child support payments when I was already payibg back support.Please contact me by mail, telephone, or e-mail. Thank you, Charles Pointer AA paralegal studies.

    prohibit and or terminate child support
    I would like to terminate child support payments for my co-parent. i was receiving state assistance but I am not now, the father has always taken care of his child. FSD in Missouri is proceecing with cs enforcement. I have already file to terminate support with FSD and I filed with state as well. I want to knoow what esle I should do or what can I do to sto or prevent this from going through. I heard if we marry (we might) it will end but I don’t know what to do.

    Paying child support for a grand child
    I have a minor child that I currently pay child support for, and his girlfriend (also a minor) is pregnant, is it possible that the court could impose a 2nd child support order for me to pay on the grandchild? Or would they take the support that I already pay into consideration? Would getting the almost 17year old emanicpated stop one or both of these from occuring?

    Paying child support for a grand child
    I have a minor child that I currently pay child support for, and his girlfriend (also a minor) is pregnant, is it possible that the court could impose a 2nd child support order for me to pay on the grandchild? Or would they take the support that I already pay into consideration? Would getting the almost 17year old emanicated stop one or both of these from occuring?

    Child Support Question
    what can I do , I ended up in some legal trouble and one day while I was at work my ex took my 2 children across state lines to Iowa and got custody off them.. And now i’m paying this out big amount of child support for them and his doesnt even work.. I got hurt on the job 10 months ago… The doctors put me on Social Security for the rest of my life .. So is it legal for them to take child support out of social security ?? And if so how can I get it lowered , cause they aint leaving me much when I get it on the 3rd of each month.. please help with some answers .. In desperate need… sincerely Dora

    My daughter will be 18 in January. How do I sue the state of Missouri?? my work counter part has a child the same age and is not required by law to take care of her. This is illegal and I want to challenge the law. Since the state is making money and doesn’t want to give up the fees associated with it.

    My son moved out and is living with a friend has been since he turned 17 he is still in hs i owe back support and am paying still however his mother is not giving any support to my son. He is 18 now how can i send the support directly to him since he is supporting himself?

    My son is turning 21 this year Oct 1, 2012. Am I obligated to pay support for the month of October 2012? Also, will my obligation end automatically or must I contact DSS and/or Family Support Payment Center or other agency in Missouri.

    Child Support Law/Emancipation

    Tell me if my 18 year old son who is in his first year of junior college and taking twelve hours of courses decide to withdraw some classes to six hours for this semester, can he be amancipated under mo child support law,and what if he is also working two days for about 16 hours total aweek.

    My wife and I divorced in 2001. I was order to pay $500 monthly in child support (for our one child). Due to health issues, I was unable to work at various times between 2001 and 2007, and fell behind in the child support payments. In 2007, my ex-wife and I worked through the DFS, and filed a certification with the Missouri Circuit Court requiring me to begin paying $750 monthly (the $500 monthly, plus $250 monthly for the amount in arrears). My ex-wife and I both agreed to this in 2007.

    As of October 2015, all child support has been paid in full (including the arrearages). Our daughter turned 18 in June 2015 and is NOT attending school. My ex-wife and I went to court a few weeks ago, and the judge has ordered that child support payments are to stop and that all monies owed to either party are paid in full. The court documents state that I have paid in full and that no more payments are to be made in the future.

    BUT just before we were leaving the court room, my ex-wife’s attorney announced that they are going to file an affidavit to collect interest on the arrearages that occurred from 2001-2007. The arrearages totalled about $31,000 (and again, as of today I have paid the arrearages and all regular child support payments, in full).

    Well, I just received a copy of the affidavit my ex-wife’s attorney filed on her behalf, and it shows that they are going to take me back to court to ask for $45,000 in interest. They attached a calculation sheet to the affidavit, showing $45,000 as the amount I owe. I know that the State of Missouri allows 1% interest to be charged, but I think my ex-wife should have been required to ask for the interest back in 2007 when we resolved how the $31,000 in arreages was to be paid back. What’s the likelihood that my ex-wife will be awarded $45,000 in interest, starting in 2015, for arrearages that occurred during 2001-2007 and that have already been paid up in full?


    I received a letter in the mail from DSS-FSD in Missouri. It states they received a request to provide child support enforcement services with respect to my son, now 20, enrolled in college, turning 21 February 2013. I am happily paying my 50% court required tuition/room/board for state college, and other health/medical, and ancillary living costs (so ordered 1993). The letter goes on to state specifically, “Our records show your child support payments should be $0.00 monthly,” which I believe to be correct. The letter references a court order number my ex-spouse and I agreed to and filed in St. Louis court in January 2002 for Revised Custody Schedule January 2002. The letter goes on to describe where I am to mail child support payments as of June 7, 2012.

    I owe, and expect to pay, my ex-spouse a 50% responsibility for several expenses incurred in the last 60 days or so, non-insurance covered oral surgery procedure (dental reconstruction), car repairs, misc. small medical expenses, and a couple of college fees, all things we have agreed to splitting under court order and/or verbal agreement for years. These expenses total around $2,600 that I am happy to pay.

    The letter from FSD states, “You must send your child support payments to the address shown in the box below. If you send payment directly to the custodial parent or child(ren) after you receive this letter, FSD will consider it a gift, and you may not receive credit for it.” The letter was not sent to my current address nor was it certified. Although these are expense splits that I expect to pay and not child support, I am concerned about whether or not I now need to pay these expenses through FSD, instead of directly to my ex-spouse. I certainly don’t want them recorded or considered as “a gift.”

    I live in Wyoming now, but it seems apparent that after twenty years of successfully negotiating and executing a parenting plan (not without some pain and hardship), I may need to seek the services of an attorney to counter an FSD proclamation as my son approaches the age of majority. It may or may not be important to point out that, despite several requests, I have never received official transcripts or a record of course work, grades or otherwise since he has been enrolled in college.

    Child support question
    My husband has paid child support for nearly 16 years and last year his one remaining child who was receiving child support left the home of the custodial parent, her mother. Now, nearly a year later she has returned home to her mother’s home. She is 17 and still in high school. Does my child support continue back to what is was prior to her leaving her mother’s home? Thank you

    Paying off child support arrears for adult child
    Child support arrearages can build up quickly and take months or years to eliminate.

    Child support arrearages do not disappear when the original support obligation terminates.

    You should not, however, be paying for any new support obligations at this point, so make sure that the support you are paying is only for the back support you owe from years past.

    If you are paying for arrearages accrued while your child was not emancipated, you will have to continue to pay those support arrearage payments until the arrearage is paid off. When you are in arrears on support, the state may take a number of steps to force you to pay your arrearage, including garnish your wages and apply your tax refund to your arrearage.

    The court can also charge interest for your arrearage. The support you pay continues to go to the person you owed the payments to, presumably the mother of your child. You may not file bankruptcy on your child support arrearages, and the support arrearage will not go away until it is paid in full.

    The best way to determine how to eliminate your arrearage is to first check with the Child Support office to determine how much arrearage you still owe and ensure that this is the correct amount (calculation errors can be made by the state).

    If the amount owed is incorrect from some reason, such as you were held liable for support after your child was declared emancipated by the court or you were held liable for support in an amount different from the court-ordered amount, you may petition the court to fix your child support obligation.

    If the amount you owe is correct, then you are obligated to pay that amount in full eventually. You may be able to contact the child support division of the prosecutor’s office to discuss settling on your arrearage as well.

    Cordell & Cordell has divorce attorneys located nationwide:

    Leslie Lorenzano is a Staff Attorney in the Indianapolis, Indiana office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Lorenzano is licensed in the state of Indiana and the U.S. District Court Sothern District of Indiana. Ms. Lorenzano received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Purdue University, and her Juris Doctor from the University of Arizona – James E. Rogers College of Law.

    My Child was emanicipated in the state of Kentucky almost 3 years ago, I am still paying regular child support and it is not going towards my arrearage…father in desperate need of help!!!
    I am currently paying child support for my daughter who will be 21 in July. I was always told that I was required to pay child support for her until the age of 21, but have since found out that I was only supposed to pay until the age of emancipation which is 18 or 19 if she was still in high school which she was not. I owe a little in arrearage so I still expected them to take payments, but I don’t think that the payments are being applied to my arrearage. How can I check this, and am I required to petition for the regular payments to stop and just be applied to my arrearage? If so, what are the steps that I should follow? I am trying to figure out where I can get a little breathing room because I currently support a household of 6 on my salary alone. Like I stated earlier my daughter is due to turn 21 in a few months and I have 4 small children at home. Payments are taken directly out of my check and my tax refund is offset every year and sent straight to my daughter. I know that my daughter deserves her money, but I am wondering is there anything I can do so I can get some of the money at tax time to put towards my other children’s needs, or do you think I can have my payments decreased since my daughter now works full-time herself, and since my financial situation is worst off then it was when my child support order was first put in place for her? Also when I have finally paid my arrearage down what are the steps to stop my payments all together?

    I’Am Trying To Find a Attorney that will take my Case,my son will be 21 in December 16,2011,HE Graduated from high School in 2010,He’s not going to College,he is Employed.I do not know where he is living.I will give more information,if you are interested.

    Re: Answer
    Thank you. We are aware of the emancipation rules as they relate to college attendance, etc. But the per month vs. per child angle sure has thrown us for a loop. We’ll review the support order more closely just to be sure.

    What about remaining minor children?
    Timely article as we had just called the Newtown County, MO Circuit Clerk this morning.

    I am paying CS on 4 children. Oldest child turning 21 next month and getting married the following month, so will be emancipated. Clerk said that my child support will not decrease for remaining 3 children since my divorce agreement states that I owe $X/month rather than $X/child/month. She said the only way to reduce support is to file a motion to modify, which could open a can of worms since my pay has increased. If I don’t file a motion, am I truly obligated to pay the same high $ per month until my youngest emancipates?

    Please weigh in?! Thank you.

    Answer from Cordell & Cordell, P.C. attorney William Halaz

    Answer: Because I do not have your child support order in front of me, I cannot give you specific advice on your case, rather only general information.

    If a support order does not have provisions in it for what happens when a child is emancipated, you may be required to continue paying the same amount. Although you have had an increase in income, it may not translate into an increase in child support. Your younger children may be emancipated as well if they are over the age of 18 and not attending a vocational or post-secondary education school. You should speak with an attorney in your area to find out what the presumed amount of child support would be if you modified, that way you will know which situation is better for you and your children.

    This answer should not be construed as creating an attorney client relationship. If you need additional legal advice or information, you should speak with an attorney in your area immediately. Cordell & Cordell PC has many attorneys in Missouri who would be glad to review your case if you so choose. Thank you for submitting your question to

    William Halaz, III is a Staff Attorney in the Arnold, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. Mr. Halaz is licensed to practice in the state of Missouri. Mr. Halaz received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Southeast Missouri State University. Then continuing his education, received his Juris Doctor from St. Louis University’s School of Law.

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