Child Support Lawyers St. Louis
Things To Know About Child Support
Missouri Child Support Made Easy
In Missouri, both parents owe a duty of support to a child and since the custodial parent supports the child directly, the duty of support by the non-custodial parent is honored by the payment of child support. Courts may order the non-custodial parent to make support payments, even when the custodial parent has sufficient income to support a child’s needs.
Missouri courts calculate child support using “Form 14.” A court must consider all relevant factors, including the following statutory factors per RSMo. Section 452.340, when determining one’s obligation to pay child support:
- The financial needs and resources of the child;
- The financial resources and needs of the parents;
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
- The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child’s educational needs;
- The child’s physical and legal custody arrangements, including the time the child spends with each parent and the reasonable expenses associated with the custody or visitation arrangements;
- The reasonable work-related child care expenses of each parent.
While a copy of Form 14 can be found at www.courts.mo.gov, the required information, and determination of other relevant factors can be highly technical and should be discussed with your attorney.
One of the most confusing areas of the law is the area of past due child support and modification of child support obligations. First, to modify a child support order, there must be a change in circumstances so substantial and continuing that the payments become unreasonable. Specifically, if the application of the factors mentioned above would result in a 20% or more change in the child support payment, there is evidence of a substantial change in circumstances.
However one of the traps that people consistently fall into is the failure to file quickly enough when something changes. If there is a change of custody or financial circumstance, consult an attorney immediately. Once your petition is on file, the court can go back to the date of filing and make necessary adjustments from that point forward. If you continue to make payments voluntarily without filing with the court, those payments cannot be recouped. Further, if you support a child without filing with the court, many of your expenses prior to filing may not be recouped. A good rule of thumb: If you experience any major life changes, call your attorney right now.
Can I get child support during a divorce or paternity action or do I have to wait for the final judgment?
If you and your spouse can’t agree on an appropriate amount of child support during the divorce proceeding, or if your spouse refuses to pay you anything, the court will enter a temporary child support order (called a “pendente lite” or “PDL” order) that will remain in place until the divorce is finalized.
What information goes on Form 14?
The main factor used to calculate child support using Form 14 is one’s Gross Income. Gross Income includes all income, earned and unearned, before all deductions are taken out for taxes, retirement, insurance, etc. Additional sources of income that many people do not think about including are those earned from trusts, commissions, overtime, tips, bonuses, dividends, interest, and many more.
While many factors may affect your child support obligation, the following are a few to keep in mind:
- Number of children
- Work -related child care
- Previous orders of child support
- Maintenance (alimony) payments
- Health insurance costs (children only)
- Uninsured medical costs
- Educational expenses (private and parochial, elementary, middle, high school, and post-secondary)
- Number of overnights with the children
What about daycare and insurance costs?
Daycare costs may increase the amount of child support awarded, so long as it is being used to allow the parent receiving child support to work or attend school. The out of pocket medical insurance expenses incurred by the receiving parent can, under some circumstances, increase child support payments.
Child support will also be adjusted to account for the parent paying for the children’s insurance.
I’m not married to my child’s father; what is the first step?
It may go without saying but the first step is to determine who the child’s father is. If the father signed an affidavit at the time of birth and his name is on the birth certificate or he has a positive DNA test, a presumption of paternity has been established. If the father disputes paternity, a judge can order a DNA test. The next step is to file a paternity action.
If I receive child support, is that income I am taxed on at the end of the year?
No. In fact unless you agreed otherwise, you should be able to claim the dependency exemption and child care credits at the end of the year. Tax implications regarding children change frequently and may have been changed by agreement or order of the court in your specific case. Before filing, consult all court orders that cover your case and a tax professional if necessary.
Can my child support payment be modified?
The key is that there must be a change in circumstances so substantial and continuing that the payments become unreasonable. Specifically, if the application of the factors mentioned above would result in a 20% or more change in the child support payment, there is evidence of a substantial change in circumstances.
When does the child support obligation end?
Generally, the child support obligation ends when the child dies, gets married, enters active duty in the military, becomes self-supporting, or turns 18 unless the child is physically or mentally incapacitated, or the child enrolls in a program of higher education. Missouri’s child support laws differ from those of other states, in that child support obligations may continue well past high school. Child support obligations generally extend until a child turns 18 years old or obtains a high school diploma, whichever happens later. At this point, if a child enrolls in “an institution of vocational or higher education” no later than October first, the child support obligation will continue to be due as long as the child remains enrolled in school and completes at least 12 hours of coursework per term, achieving passing grades in at least six hours. Once the child reaches age 21 or “completes his or her education,” whichever comes first, the child support obligation ends. Missouri’s law dealing with child support after high school can be confusing and poses potential traps for the unwary, so please consult a legal professional.
My ex filed for bankruptcy. Will they be able to stop paying child support?
No, the child support obligation will continue. However, since an ex filing for bankruptcy may affect many other aspects related to a divorce, please contact an attorney immediately if you receive notice of a filing.
Will I have to support my step-children after my divorce?
A spouse with no legal tie to the step-children will have no child support obligation and will be granted no custody rights. Children of a prior marriage should already be adequately supported by a child support order from the earlier divorce or paternity action.
Do we have to follow the child support guidelines?
Not necessarily. You and your spouse can mutually agree to child support payments that are higher or lower than the guidelines recommend. However if there is an order in place, child support should comply with the order until you consult with an attorney.