House bill would change child support rules for college students

The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill last week that the Senate has already scheduled a hearing for. The bill relates to child support payments for children who enroll in an institution of higher education after high school.

As the law stands now, a noncustodial parent must pay child support until the child turns 18. If the child is still in high school, the child support payments must continue until secondary school is completed or the child turns 21, whichever comes first.

When it comes to higher education — vocational and bachelor’s degree programs, for example — the same general guidelines apply, but child support ceases at graduation or age 21 (again, whichever comes first). However, the child must enroll by October 1 following graduation from high school or successful completion of a graduation equivalence degree program. And enrollment is not enough: The child must sign up for 12 credit hours.

There are exceptions, of course. Children with developmental disabilities, for example, only need to enroll in and attend an institution of higher education. Children who work at least 15 hours per week need not take a full load of classes; they can sign up for nine credit hours. If the child fails at least half or more of his classes in a semester, the noncustodial parent may stop making child support payments.

The bill would not change the gist of the law, but it would change the conditions that would result in termination of child support. Rather than having to pass at least half of his classes, the student would have to pass all of them. If he does not, the child support payments will stop, unless the child can convince a court that extenuating circumstances kept him from passing.

According to one proponent, the bill should encourage custodial parents to make sure the child successfully completes the college classes. Apparently the majority of his colleagues agree: The bill passed the House with a vote of 117 to 30.

The Senate will have to move quickly: The session is scheduled to adjourn on May 16.


The St. James Leader Journal, “Child support bill makes next step,” Arianna Poindexter, April 18, 2014

Missouri House of Representatives, HB 1138 perfected bill text and actions, as of April 22, 2014

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