Calculating Child Support in Missouri

When parents divorce or separate, determining how much child support each parent should contribute can often be a contentious issue. Every family's situation is unique, and a variety of factors need to be considered to arrive at an appropriate calculation of child support.

Some basic guidelines for Missouri child support determinations are discussed below. A Missouri child support attorney can provide further guidance based on each couple's particular circumstances.

Determination of Child Support Obligations in Missouri

Missouri has child support guidelines that assist parents in figuring out the amount of child support they will either pay or receive each month. Generally, unless both parents have similar incomes and roughly equal amounts of parenting time, one parent will be obligated to make child support payments to the other. Usually the parent who has custody of the children more of the time, or the custodial parent, is the one who receives child support.

The Missouri Supreme Court put forward what is known as "Form 14" for determining child support obligations. Form 14 is a chart used to arrive at the presumed child support amount each parent should contribute. One may think that using a chart to determine child support would be relatively straightforward. In reality, the number of factors considered and subjective determinations involved in Form 14 make for a very complex calculation.

Form 14 takes into account such factors as each parent's income, the number of children needing support, child care costs, health care costs and the amount of visitation. Often, each parent's taxes and payroll stubs will be used to provide necessary information.

What Is Considered Income?

The definition of income for purposes of calculating child support is fairly broad. Among other things, it includes earnings from salaries, commissions, pensions, retirement benefits, severance pay, unemployment benefits, workers' compensation, disability insurance benefits and Social Security benefits. Additionally, under appropriate circumstance, overtime pay, bonuses and other funds received may be categorized as income.

Visitation Credit

The parenting plan and visitation arrangements parents develop may impact child support obligations. If the child has a certain number of overnight visits at the noncustodial parent's home throughout the year, the noncustodial parent may receive a credit to lessen his or her child support obligation. Changes to this rule in 2009, however, raised the minimum income the custodial parent must earn in order for the noncustodial parent to receive the visitation credit.

Daycare Credit

In families where both parents work outside the home, daycare for children can be a substantial expense. Missouri law permits the parent who pays for child care expenses to claim a credit against his or her monthly child support obligation.

Enforcement of Child Support Orders

When a parent does not make the child support payments ordered, the Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) can assist custodial parents in receiving the amounts owed. If a parent owes child support, DCSE may withhold his or her income, intercept tax refunds, file liens on property and take other steps to collect the child support due. A family law attorney can also assist parents in this situation, and ensure their interests are protected when working with DCSE.

Modification of Missouri Child Support

A variety of issues may necessitate a modification to a Missouri child support order. Parents may ask a court to review child support orders when there is a substantial change in circumstances that is likely to persist for some time. Changes to both parents' incomes are factored into the new child support determination.

When Is a Parent No Longer Required to Pay Child Support?

Often, people may assume child support payments automatically stop once a child reaches the age of 18. This is not the case. A variety of issues determine " child support emancipation," which refers to the ending of a parent's obligation to make child support payments.

If a child turns 18 while still in school, child support continues. Even after a child graduates from high school, child support may continue until the child reaches the age of 21 if he or she is enrolled in a college or vocational program. For child support to continue while a child is enrolled in secondary schooling, a variety of requirements have to be met. For example, the child must pass a certain number of credits each term.

Child support may end if a child marries, is on active military duty or is no longer cared for by either parent.

Consult With an Attorney

This information is only intended to provide a general overview of child support obligations in Missouri. Consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney for assistance in your child support matter. A lawyer can work to protect your interests and advocate on your behalf to ensure a fair child support arrangement is reached.