Case Law Update on the issue of emancipation of a child and termination of child support obligation for a child in college when course load requirement is not met.

Filed March 4 – Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District – ED99492

Father appeals the trial court’s judgment in favor of Mother, on his motion to terminate child support for their daughter in college. Father sought to terminate his child support obligation when Daughter’s academic course load fell below the statutory minimum of 9 credit hours while working 15 hours per week (§452.340.5). The trial court excused Daughter’s non-compliance based on its finding that she was diagnosed with depression. Father asserts that the trial court’s finding is not supported by substantial evidence. The Court of Appeals agreed.

Missouri’s child support law continues a parent’s child support obligation through college but deems child emancipated if she enrolls “either full-time with a minimum of 12 hours or part-time with a minimum of nine hours plus employment of 15 hours per week.”  The law also provides for an exception to minimum enrollment requirements for illness. In this case, there were allegations that the child was depressed, but no credible evidence to support the claim, and no actual diagnosis.

The burden of reporting course load and grade information to the non-custodial parent is on child, not on custodial parent so, though custodial parent’s efforts to back up child’s compliance did not meet statutory standards.

 TRIAL COURT DECISION REVERSED