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Divorce 101 – Understanding Child Support Modification

By: Alan Freed

If you have children and you’ve been through a divorce or a paternity (parentage) action, chances are that either you or your co-parent have been ordered to pay child support. In Missouri, child support payments are generally calculated using the Missouri Child Support Guidelines and “Form 14,” a tool used by lawyers and judges to determine how much support should be paid based upon the parents’ incomes, the parenting schedule, and other factors.

Because children’s needs change, parents’ incomes change, and parenting schedules change, child support orders, whether arrived at through trial or by agreement, are always subject to modification. This means that a court can review the situation to see if child support should be increased or decreased or even terminated.

Here are a few things worth knowing about changes to child support:

  • Child support is not paid in equal amounts for each child. So, if you’re paying/receiving $900 in support for three children, when one child is no longer eligible for child support, the reduction will not be $300. Generally speaking, a reduction from three children to two is around 15% of the original amount. You’ll pay/receive around 30% less for one child than for two. However, you need to look at the original judgment for the exact figure in your case.
  • A small change in the income of either the payor or recipient will not likely be enough to change the child support calculation sufficiently to warrant attempting to modify the child support. Motions to modify can be costly, and you need to discuss the economics with a knowledgeable attorney to determine whether you should take that step.
  • Having more children is not usually a reason to reduce your child support payment. The law assumes that, if you decide to have children with a new partner, you do so with knowledge of your existing child support obligations, and you will not be “rewarded” with a reduction in the child support owed to your ex. However, if your ex initiates an action seeking an increase in child support, you can use your new children as a “shield” to help protect you from an increased obligation. Form 14 includes an adjustment for children born after the prior order was entered, and this adjustment will apply as long as the person with the new children is not the one seeking the change in support.
  • Child support orders do not typically include a termination date for at least two reasons: Children can become “emancipated” (no longer eligible for support) a number of ways—graduation from high school without going on to college, getting married, joining the military, or turning 21 while in college—all these are emancipating events. Since you can’t predict which of these will happen, the termination date is unknown. Also, the law regarding emancipation can change. It has changed in the course of my career at least three times.

Child support laws can be complex and confusing. Talk to one of the experienced family law attorneys at Paule Camazine, & Blumenthal, P.C. about your child support questions.


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