Questions About Child Support

What are the Child Support Guidelines? Are they meant to cover all expenses related to children?

Federal law requires that each state: (1) establish criteria under which application of the guidelines might be unjust or inappropriate, and require written findings by the judge as to why the guideline amount is inappropriate; and (2) require that the guidelines also be used for any subsequent modification of the award. In accordance with the FSA, state child support guidelines were required to:

  • Take into consideration all earnings and income of the noncustodial parent;
  • Be based on specific criteria and result in the computation of the support amount; and
  • Provide for the child's health care needs, through health insurance coverage or other means.
  • In response to the federal mandate, states devised different models for calculating child support awards, including:
  • Income Shares Model: Based on the concept that a child should receive the same proportion of parental income that would have been received by the child if the parents had not divorced (39 states, including California and Florida).
  • Percentage of Income Model: Support is based on a percentage of the noncustodial parent's income, regardless of custodial parent's income (nine states, including Illinois and New York, and the District of Columbia).
  • Melson Formula Model: A more complex version of the income shares model, which factors in each parent's self-support needs, the standard of living allowance, and other considerations (two states: Delaware and Hawaii).

Often the court will give credits within these guidelines to parents who pay for the costs of child care, visitation, health insurance, and other costs associated with raising children.

My ex-wife has recently married a very wealthy man. Can I now stop making child support payments?

No. Regardless of whom the recipient spouse marries, in general, the duty to support your child is absolute and will always be enforced. It is also important to note that it is the right of the child to receive this support and generally no party can waive that right on behalf of that child. Subsequent spouses do not have an obligation to pay child support to child that is not their own.

Can my former spouse file for bankruptcy to avoid paying child support?

Child support payments generally cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. This means that a parent who owes child support cannot escape this duty by filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcies do not act as a stay, or hold, on actions to establish paternity or to modify child or establish support obligations. If your co-parent has stopped paying child support, the court and state department that administers support may use several methods to attempt to enforce child support responsibilities.

When will my child support end?

This varies from state to state. Child support emancipation is a phrase used to describe when a parent is no longer required to pay child support. Many people wrongly assume that, once the child reaches age 18, child support automatically stops. Several factors can come into play that may require a parent to continue paying child support beyond the age of majority. In Missouri, once a child turns 18, the parent's obligation to pay child support ends unless the child is still in school. If the child completes high school and goes onto college or vocational school, the parent's obligation continues until the child turns 21 or completes the educational program, whichever comes first. In addition, if the child is permanently impaired and will never become self-sufficient, the court may extend child support. Other circumstances that could eliminate the parent's child support obligation include:

  • If the child passes away
  • If the child gets married
  • If the child goes on active duty in the military
  • If the child becomes self-sufficient

What happens if a paying ex-spouse dies?

Once a supporting parent has died, support payments die also unless sufficient arrangements were made before their death to continue payment. If, however, the parent was behind in child support payments, their estate will owe the past-due amount.

A well-prepared divorce decree and separation agreement will attempt to protect minor children in every situation, including the death of a parent who pays child support. In an ideal situation, the divorce decree or agreement will have mandated that the paying parent provide life insurance to cover much or all of their support obligation until the children become adults or the support obligation ends.

My ex-wife is constantly interfering with my visitation - which is supposed to be every other weekend and Wednesday nights. When I went to pick them up on Friday, she told me they were away visiting relatives. This sort of thing happens all the time. Am I entitled to withhold child support until I receive my court-ordered visitation?

This varies from state to state. If the custodial parent withholds visitation occasionally and does not follow the visitation schedule that is written in the agreement or order, visitation time can and should be made up. Specific make-up dates can be scheduled between the parents. Non-custodial parents should keep track of the dates and times of missed visitation in a calendar, written journal, or electronic document. If the custodial parent will not schedule make-up dates, the non-custodial parent can take other measures. Other measures, however, should never include withholding child support or resorting to self-help.

Child support and visitation are not related. Your child (not the other parent) is legally entitled to child-support, and as the paying parent, you are obligated by law to support your child. If you stop paying child support, you are violating a court order and may be held in contempt of court by a judge who can impose serious penalties on you, such as monetary fines and jail time. Whatever you do, do not stop making your court-ordered child support payments on time.

How does a judge determine the amount of child support?

Different states have devised different models for calculating child support awards, including:

  • Income Shares Model: Based on the concept that a child should receive the same proportion of parental income that would have been received by the child if the parents had not divorced (39 states, including California and Florida).
  • Percentage of Income Model: Support is based on a percentage of the noncustodial parent's income, regardless of custodial parent's income (nine states, including Illinois and New York, and the District of Columbia).
  • Melson Formula Model: A more complex version of the income shares model, which factors in each parent's self-support needs, the standard of living allowance, and other considerations (two states: Delaware and Hawaii).

Often the court will give credits within these guidelines to parents who pay for the costs of child care, visitation, health insurance, and other costs associated with raising children.

If my ex-spouse does not allow me to visit my children, then can I stop paying child support?

If the custodial parent withholds visitation occasionally and does not follow the visitation schedule that is written in the agreement or order, visitation time can and should be made up. Specific make-up dates can be scheduled between the parents. Non-custodial parents should keep track of the dates and times of missed visitation in a calendar, written journal, or electronic document. If the custodial parent will not schedule make-up dates, the non-custodial parent can take other measures. Other measures, however, should never include withholding child support or resorting to self-help.

Child support and visitation are not related. Your child (not the other parent) is legally entitled to child-support, and as the paying parent, you are obligated by law to support your child. If you stop paying child support, you are violating a court order and may be held in contempt of court by a judge who can impose serious penalties on you, such as monetary fines and jail time. Whatever you do, do not stop making your court-ordered child support payments on time.

My children seem to cost more as they get older; can I get an increase in child support?

Child support is designed to meet the needs of the child. Those needs include but are not limited to food, shelter, clothing, health care and education. If the child's needs change, or if a parent's financial situation changes, the amount of child support may need to be modified. In such cases, the existing child support order may be amended either by a mutual agreement between the two parties or by a court order. Child support modification can take place any time after a temporary court order, marital settlement agreement, or divorce judgment is executed. If you need to modify your child support order, you may choose to either increase or decrease the amount of child support. While there are many reasons a couple may wish to modify their child support order, some of the most common reasons for child support modifications are:

  • Changes in income - post-judgment modifications of Missouri and Illinois child support often occur when one parent's income significantly increases enough to warrant an adjustment.
  • Increases in need - if the child's needs have changed (such as a when a child enters day care), a parent may seek to modify the existing child support agreement.

We never discussed who was to pay for our children's college during our divorce. Now that our daughter is about to go to university, my ex refuses to pay for her tuition. Can he be forced to pay for some or all of the costs?

This can vary from state to state. It is common to need a court order requiring these types of payments. In Missouri, children who receive child support payments typically stop receiving them when they turn 18 or finish high school, whichever happens last. Children who go onto college or vocational school, however, can continue to receive child support payments beyond their 18th birthdays. Children enrolled in post-secondary school can continue to receive child support payments until they turn 21 or complete the educational program, whichever comes first. Specific requirements must be met for child support to continue during college or vocational school.

For your child to remain eligible for child support payments while seeking a post-secondary degree or certification, he or she must fulfill specific requirements under the law. Failure to accommodate any of these requirements may result in termination of child support payments:

  • After high school, the child must enroll in a college or vocational school no later than October 1 of the year he or she graduated.
  • The child is required to enroll in and complete a minimum of 12 credit hours each term with the exception of summer term. If the child works at least 15 hours per week, the requirement drops to nine credit hours.
  • The child is required to provide a transcript showing courses enrolled in and completed, grades and credits earned each term, and documentation showing the courses enrolled in for the upcoming term, to the paying parent.
  • The parent has the right to request notification of the child's grades. The child is required to provide the documentation within 30 days of receiving his or her grades from the school.
  • The child is required to earn good enough grades to stay in school. Receiving failing grades in 50 percent or more of his or her classes can result in the termination of payments.

Contact a Child Support Attorney Today in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas

If you are going through child support matter and need bold representation, Stange Law Firm, PC will be glad to assist you. Contact us online or by calling our convenient locations throughout Missouri, Illinois and Kansas in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia, Springfield and beyond in the Midwest.