Divorce is not only costly upfront, but it also has long-term financial ramifications, especially when children are involved. If you are ordered to pay child support, you may wonder how long the order will last. Knowing what the law states and how it affects your situation can help you plan your finances more effectively.
When does child support end?
Under Missouri law, child support in most circumstances will automatically end once your child is 21 years old. It may continue beyond that age if your child is not married and has mental or physical incapacitation that prevents self-support. Turning 18 does not result in automatic termination of child support unless your child has finished high school, is not attending college and is capable of being self-reliant.
If your child begins and remains in college full-time following graduation from high school, your support obligation will continue until your child completes college or turns 21, whichever happens first. Other reasons for ending child support include the following:
- The death, marriage or emancipation of your child
- Your child becoming an active-duty military member
If your order contains provisions about how long child support will continue for you will be subject to that timetable instead.
Is the child support amount permanent?
Perhaps you do not think you will be able to afford to pay the decreed amount for so long. It is imperative that you pay it to avoid serious consequences, such as wage garnishment or license suspension. However, you can seek a modification of the amount.
To decrease the amount of child support you are required to pay, you typically need to prove to the court that a substantial change in your income or health has occurred that requires a lower child support payment, even if only temporarily. For example, modifications may be possible if your employer cuts your salary, you can no longer work due to an injury or you have additional children to provide for.