By: Alan E. Freed
Couples with children who divorce in Missouri quickly learn about Form 14, the court-mandated tool used to determine the amount of child support to be paid. Form 14 uses the parents’ incomes, the parenting schedule, and a handful of adjustments to calculate the “presumed” child payment. The amount of child support ordered by a court is always “modifiable,” meaning if a substantial change of circumstances occurs (and in some cases, if the court finds that it’s also in the children’s best interest), the court can adjust the child support up or down.
Typically, the kinds of changed circumstances judges will consider include significant changes in income over a prolonged period of time, either up or down, or permanent loss of employment through disability or retirement.
What happens when a parent paying child support has children by a new spouse or partner? With that parent taking on new support obligations for the additional children, will a court reduce the support obligation for the children from the former marriage?
The answer, as with so many other legal questions, is “It depends.” The law presumes that a parent paying support understands the need to continue paying support, and so, if the paying parent decides to have more children, they do it at their own risk, and they can’t come to court and ask for a reduction.
However, if the parent receiving support asks the court for an increase, the parent paying support can use the new children as a “shield” against such an increase. In these cases, Form 14 will include an adjustment to the paying parent’s obligation based upon that parent’s need to take care of the new children.
Although Form 14 calculators are readily available on the internet, understanding the intricacies of the Form 14 adjustments requires a thorough knowledge of Missouri’s child support laws.