In Missouri our child support continues past the age of 18 years and ends at the end of the child's graduation from college or the age of 21, whichever comes first. In special circumstances such as a special needs child the support can continue past 21. Other states, however, end the support when the child turns 18 years of age. So which law prevails when a custodial parent moves into Missouri with a child support order from a state that terminates the support at age 18? Recently the Easter District of the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that Missouri law prevails. In Burke v. Hutto, decided November 20, 2007, the custodial parent (mother) moved into Missouri from California. In 1991 a California court dissolved the parents' marriage and ordered the father to pay child support, which was later increased in a modification action. Thereafter mother moved to Missouri and the father moved to Georgia. In 1994 mother filed in Missouri a motion to modify the child support amount and to have the father pay fifty percent of the child's college expenses. The trial court granted the motion to modify. When the child turned 19 years of age the father filed an affidavit for termination of the child support pursuant to California law that emancipated the child upon the 19th birth date. The trial court terminated the child support upon its finding that the support issue was controlled by the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Law (URESA). Mother appealed.
The Appellate Court found that the father had waived any defense of lack of personal jurisdiction in the modification action filed in Missouri due to the fact that father did nothing to impeach the modification judgment at the time it was sought to be enforced when a wage withholding was entered nor when he sought to terminate the child support. With this waiver Missouri law applied to the the modification action and Missouri required, at that time, that child support continue until the child reaches the age of 22 or completes a post-secondary schooling, whichever comes first. (This is now changed to the age of 21). In his argument the father stated that through URESA Georgia law should be applied because that is where he has lived since 1994 and Georgia terminates child support at the age of 18 years. The Appellate Court ruled that URESA does not apply in this case because the mother did not initiate the action to enforce the child support order in Georgia but that father initiated the action in Missouri to terminate his child support obligation, and even if it did apply, Missouri controls. In citing Lewis v. Roskin, 895 SW2d 190 (Mo. App. 1995), the court ruled that "Missouri's interest in protecting the welfare of its resident child outweighed the interest of the issuing state . . . in protecting its sovereignty." The trial court's termination of the child support order was reversed and the trial court was ordered to reinstate the previous child support order issued by Missouri.
The conclusion - if the custodial parent moves to Missouri and seeks a modification of a child support order and the personal jurisdiction is not challenged and won, Missouri law will prevail on child support orders and the parent paying support could end up paying child support until the child reaches the age of 21 years or graduates from college, whichever comes first, regardless of the laws of the state where the initial divorce was granted.