The Law Office of Kurt H King

September 30, 2013

Child Must Have Been Incapacitated At 18 For Child Support To Continue

Filed under: Divorce,Family Law,Support — kurthking @ 8:52 pm
Tags: , ,

When does a parent pay child support for a child over age 18 but unable to care for himself/herself?

In Bright v. Bright989 S.W.2d 196 (Mo. Ct. App. S.D. 1999), the child did not become disabled until he became mentally ill during his first semester in college.   The child withdrew from college before the end of that semester and father ceased paying child support.   The child committed suicide over a year later–two months before his 22nd birthday–being incapacitated and unable to provide for his necessities due to his illness.  The mother later sued the father for child support for the months after the child withdrew from college, funeral and medical expenses of the child, and her attorneys fees.  The trial court compassionately awarded mother the relief she requested but the court of appeals reversed, taking it all away except the attorneys fees award.

The appellate court found little or no evidence that the child was incapacitated at age 18.  Father’s duty to continue to pay child support after the child reached age 18 was based solely upon the child attending college.  When the child withdrew from college that basis for father to continue to pay child support ceased.

Looking to Missouri’s 452.340 (subsections 3 and 4), the court found no intent that Missouri lawmakers intended to restart child support after it terminates by law.  Had the child simply gone on work a job after turning 18, no one would argue that a parent should have to recommence paying child support if the child later became incapacitated.  Likewise, no child support would be due from a parent if a 50, 60, or 70 year old child of that parent became incapacitated.  In order that the law be uniformly fair, the court could not in good conscience give the mother of the mentatlly incapacitated child in this case any back child support for those months after the obligation to support the child terminated by law.

Thus, the court of appeals reads 452.340.4 as granting a court the power to order child support of a mentally or physically incapacitated child to continue ONLY IF the child is so incapacitated on his or her 18th birthday.

As for the child’s medical and funeral expenses, the court found no Missouri law obligating a parent to pay for the such expenses of their child when that child is no longer a minor.

But the court left in place the trial court’s award of attorneys fees in favor of wife.  Given the novel questions of law, and the father’s much greater income, the court of appeals found no abuse of discretion in the award of fees to mother.

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068


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