Case Law Update: There Must Be Sufficient Credit Hours For Child Support To Continue While Child In College; New Law Not Retroactive

Statute passed in 2007 did not apply to obligation in 2002. In 2002, statute provided that Child working 15 hours per week could maintain support obligation by completing at least nine credit hours of post-secondary education. Child completed eight credit hours. No manifest circumstances shown.

Father appeals from a judgment ordering him to pay retroactive child support to Mother for their child. Father contends that the trial court misapplied Section 452.340.5 because: (1) Daughter became emancipated as of January 1, 2004, after failing to satisfy the minimum college credit-hour requirements prescribed in this statute; and (2) neither she nor Mother provided Father with a transcript or similar official document so as to remain eligible for continued child support.

Mother argues that the trial court’s ruling should be upheld because of a 2007 amendment to Section 452.340, which states that "[w]hen enrolled in at least twelve credit hours, if the child receives failing grades in half or more of his or her courseload in any one semester, payment of child support may be terminated and shall not be eligible for reinstatement." Mother contends this amended language gave the trial court discretion to decide that Daughter was not emancipated. In essence, Mother is arguing that the 2007 amendment should be applied retrospectively.

The Missouri Constitution prohibits laws that are retrospective in operation. A retrospective law includes one that creates a new obligation or duty with respect to past transactions. If a law gives something already done a different effect from that which it had when the events transpired, it is retrospective. Under the law in effect in 2003, Father’s obligation to pay child support terminated when Daughter failed to satisfy the minimum credit-hour requirements of Section 452.340.5. Therefore, the 2007 amendment to Section 452.340.5 cannot be applied retrospectively to those past events to create a new obligation to pay child support.

The Opinion can be read at: In re the Marriage of: Marsha Ann (Wood) Maggi and Brian Allen Wood, Marsha Ann (Wood) Maggi, Petitioner-Respondent, v. Brian Allen Wood, Respondent-Appellant.

Categories: Child Support