I recently posted an article discussing Missouri Senate Bill No. 25 which, affects, among other things, the age of emancipation of children for purposes of child support. Under the old law, child support would continue until the child reaches the age of 22 or graduates from college, whichever is sooner, provided that the child enrolled in college by October of the year that they graduated high school and remained continuously enrolled. Under the new law effective August 27, 2007, the age is reduced to 21 with some additional requirements for the support obligation to continue. The text of the new law pertaining to child support and enrollment in college, RSMo Section 452.340 is set forth in my previous post dated July 18.
Since that post, I have received a number of inquiries regarding whether or not this new law would apply to pre-existing child support cases. This question has not yet reached the courts, so there is no absolute answer that I am aware of yet. However, we can look to past precedent and the current attitude of at least some Missouri courts for guidance on the issue.
The statute itself does not state that the new law only applies to child support cases enacted after a certain date, and this is not the first time that the Missouri legislature has changed the child support emancipation law. Previously, when emancipation was changed from 21 to the 18/22 rule, the courts held that the law at the time of emancipation of the child controlled. The logic was that the amended statute did not violate savings statutes but operated to terminate future child support payments at an earlier date than anticipated when the order was entered. The change in age was sufficient grounds for a modification to terminate child support payments because the child had reached the age of emancipation.
It is also true that at least some Missouri Courts have taken the same position regarding the new law. So, we can reasonably conclude, unless and until the courts instruct us otherwise, that when a child reaches the age of 21, or earlier if all requirements are not met for continued support, they are emancipated and child support should terminate, regardless of when the order was first entered. This would apply retroactively as to previous orders, but not retroactively to the 21st birthday if the child turned 21 before the enactment of the statute. In this situation the date of emancipation would be the date the statute was enacted, August 28, 2007.