Understanding child support calculations under Missouri State Law
In Missouri, lawyers and judges are required to calculate child support using certain Missouri Supreme Court Rules and guidelines. This method is done through use of Missouri “Form 14.” Although the Form 14 formula has remained constant for many years, the Missouri Supreme Court adopted numerous rule changes which go into effect in July 2017.
Child Support Basics
Before examining any changes to Missouri’s child support calculation, it is important to understand what child support is and how it is calculated. Child support is simply the payment from one parent to another to help cover the costs of raising a child. Typically, child support is paid until the child reaches 18 years of age. However, there are circumstances in which child support may continue past the child’s 18th birthday.
Determining the appropriate amount of child support depends on the following factors:
(1) The income of the parties;
(2) The number of children;
(3) The number of overnights the children spend with the parent paying child support; and
(4) Other costs paid by the paying parent, such as healthcare insurance and daycare expenses.
Using these parameters, the Form 14 then establishes the “presumed amount” of child support. To deviate from this Form 14 calculation, the parties must either agree, or the judge must find that the “presumed amount” would be unjust and unreasonable based upon the circumstances of the parties.
Changes in the Overnight Adjustment
One of the significant factors affecting the calculation of child support using Missouri’s Form 14 is the number of overnight custody periods and the associated credit awarded to the paying parent. The more overnights awarded to the paying parent, the larger the deduction in that parent’s support obligations.
Prior to the July 2017 changes, courts were empowered with a significant amount of discretion in determining what overnight credit, if any, should be awarded to the paying parent. This discretion is limited only where the number of overnight visits is less than 109. In such instances, the court is limited to an adjustment of 0-10%. Under the new changes to the child support guidelines, the judge’s discretion is severely restricted. The new Form 14 sets specific percentage adjustments for overnights exceeding 109 per year.
Calculation Changes for Lower Income Families
Under present Missouri Supreme Court guidelines, the presumed child support relies heavily on the parties’ income. In an effort to simplify the process, the Missouri Supreme Court has created basic guidelines for those earning less than $16,800 per year. The simplified process considers only the gross income of the paying parent and the number of children being supported. As the number of children being supported increases, so does the presumed child support.
Calculating child support under Missouri’s Supreme Court rules can be a challenge for the self-represented party. Without the assistance of counsel, one could end up paying significantly more than they otherwise would be required to pay. Likewise, the parent receiving support could be awarded less than they are entitled to receive.
If you are involved in a divorce case, paternity action or modification suit, you should contact an experienced attorney you can rely on. Don’t take the risk your child receives too little assistance or you are forced to pay too much. Contact our office for assistance today.