Each state has its own procedures and tools for determining how much child support parents should be paying. In Missouri, child support is calculated using “Form 14.” The law requires this form to be updated every few years. The latest update, which will take effect in early November, makes some important changes to how judges determine support. Here are a few of those changes:
- Which parent is designated as the one to pay support? Until now, the judge got to determine which parent would pay the other. The new Form 14 says the parent receiving support is also the one awarded most of the children’s time. However, it also presumes the parent with the higher gross monthly income will be the paying parent. That change clarifies what happens when the parents have equal time, so that equal time between the parents does not necessarily mean no child support will be paid by either party.
- “Imputed” income. The court may “impute” income to a parent. This means the court can assume a parent can work and earn a certain amount of money, even if the parent is not employed or even earning that imputed income at their current job. The revised Form 14 says that, before imputing income, the court must consider:
- The parent’s probable earnings based on the parent’s work history;
- The parent’s assets, residence, age, and health;
- The parent’s qualifications for work, employment potential, educational attainments. and their record of seeking work;
- The parent’s criminal record or other employment barriers;
- The available work or employment opportunities in the community and the prevailing earnings level in the local community;
- Whether the parent must care for a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the parent not be required to seek employment outside the home; and
- Other relevant background factors in the case.
The court will also be able to consider the statistical records maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center when determining an amount of “imputed” income.
- Ordering an amount different from what is calculated. Although the court must calculate child support using Form 14, the new version allows the court to deviate from that amount under certain conditions. Some of those conditions mentioned are:
- A child receives income that is not based on the child’s special needs;
- A parent has significant medical expenses;
- The parents’ combined adjusted monthly gross income exceeds $30,000 per month or there are more than 6 children;
- The parent obligated to pay support incurs significant or unusual expenses in connection with transporting him or herself or a child for exercise of their time.
- Payments to third-party custodians. The new Form 14 makes provisions for child support when a child is living with a third party (not either parent), permitting the court to order child support to be paid by both parents the third party with custody.
- Higher payments. The new Form 14 increases the amount of child support to be paid in most cases.