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Melissa A. Featherston

Emancipation case poses child support questions for Missouri

When most Missouri residents hear the term child support they think of one parent paying child support to the other after they have separated or divorced. Well, in one U.S. state, it is now possible for children under the age of 18 to take a parent to court to be awarded child support after they are emancipated in certain circumstances.

The development arises from the story of a young woman, 21, who chose to leave her mother's home when she was only 13 years of age due to her mother's abusive boyfriend. Having lived on her own, graduated from high school and gone on to college on her own, she now stands to possibly collect some child support from her mother that the court says is overdue.

At the age of 16, this young woman went before a New Mexico court to become legally emancipated so that she could make decisions that she normally would not be allowed to make for herself at that age. Afterward, she lived with neighbors and friends, attended school, and worked a job to support herself. In the course of her effort, she went to court in 2007 to obtain child support from her mother.

A judge awarded the young woman $15, 278 in child support from the time she left home until she turned 18 and graduated from high school. An appeals court overturned the support award saying it was not allowed under state law. But the state's Supreme Court recently upheld the original award by unanimous vote.

To what extent this child support ruling in favor of an emancipated minor might be applicable in Missouri is a matter open to question. The laws are complex and require a good deal of experience to understand.

Certainly, there are cases where the custodial parent may fail to provide for a child, or even abandon a child after divorce. In such cases, judgments such as this one might help to support an argument that providing child support would be in the best interests of the minor even after emancipation.

Source: NECN.com, "NM court allows child support to emancipated minor," Barry Massey, Associated Press, July 2, 2012

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