How does Missouri Child Support Work?

Courts issue an order for Missouri child support based on parents’ or guardians’ income and cost of child-rearing. Basic expenses such as food and clothing are covered, along with additional items at a judge’s discretion. Missouri Revised Statutes 452 and 454 underpin the system, and enforcement for failure to pay can range from wage garnishment to imprisonment. Parents or guardians can modify or challenge a child custody order in court.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Mar 15, 2022

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Overview

  • Missouri child support is determined by the income share method
  • Individuals can have wages or other holdings garnished and receive jail time for failing to pay child support
  • Child support may be modified or ended based on factors like a change in employment or a child’s age

Understanding child support guidelines can be a daunting task. Whatever your involvement with the issue, we want to help you navigate this complex process with confidence. The following information provides an accessible guide to the ins and outs of Missouri child support.

Foundations for Missouri Child Support System

Although the child support concept was established by a national law, each state has its own rules for child support. The laws for Missouri (MO) fall under Missouri Revised Statutes 452. Missouri child support rests on the belief that both parents or guardians should contribute to the expenses involved in raising children.

As such, Missouri utilizes a method known as income share. Under this system, the court calculates a monthly expense for raising the children in question. Both parents’ or guardians’ incomes are then combined, and an equitable proportion of this amount is set aside for child support based on the monthly cost-of-child-raising total.

The parent or guardian who received more income per month will be responsible for a bigger share of the monthly child-rearing expenses. This approach is different from other states’ percent of income method, which simply takes a set percentage of the support payer’s income each month.

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How is child support ordered?

A judge will deliver a decision based on the rules set forth in the aforementioned statute, with the discretion to amend certain aspects as deemed necessary. Before a judge will render a child support order, proof of parentage must be established. This step can be taken either with an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity signed by both parents after the child is born or with a court order that establishes parenthood.

The custody of child parent or guardian will almost universally be the one seeking support from a non-custodial parent. What is a custodial parent? This person is the parent or guardian who has been granted primary custody of the child by a judge. The child spends the most time with a custodial parent, with non-custodial parents often having a visitation schedule.

Amount of Child Support

A document known as the Schedule of Child Support Obligations sets the basic template for determining child support payments. Although exceptions may always apply, such as parents or guardians sharing custody, typically the schedule is set with at the very minimum $50 a month.

The number of children covered and the parental or guardian adjusted gross income will affect the final amount of monthly payments. Alimony payments, health insurance provisions, and the amount of time the child spends with each parent may become factors as well.

Parents or guardians will determine their adjusted gross income by filling out a Child Support Amount Calculation Worksheet. This document will tabulate all earnings that are considered income. Such earnings include the following: money earned from employment, pensions, dividends, severance pay, trust money, worker’s comp, social security and retirement, disability, unemployment funds, interest, annuities, royalties, landlord earnings. capital gains, and prize money.

Coverage

Healthcare, food, clothes, and transportation are some of the basic financial needs for kids that Missouri child support covers. If the judge decides additional support is needed, other covered expenses such as extracurricular activities, education, child care, and extraordinary advanced medical procedures may be ordered.

Parents or guardians should also be aware that under Missouri guidelines, child support is neither taxable nor tax-deductible. The parent seeking support may claim the child as a dependent on tax forms, though.

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Child Support Time Frame

A non-custodial parent is usually ordered to provide support at least until the affected children turn 18. If a child attends college full-time, the child support will continue until the child graduates or turns 21. When a child marries or joins the military for active duty, coverage will also typically cease. The same applies if the child dies.

Finally, an order may be terminated if the parent or guardian requesting support submits a written statement to the court that their child is emancipated. The support payer may also file this written statement, but the termination would not go into effect unless the requesting custodial parent or guardian fails to respond to the request within 30 days.

A child with disabilities who is unable to live independently may be granted ongoing financial support, however.

Missouri Child Support Enforcement

Securing a formal court order for child support is important because the courts cannot enforce an informal agreement. When someone fails to comply with a court order to pay support, the Missouri child support enforcement system comes into play.

In addition to court enforcement, another avenue for MO child support enforcement is the Missouri Family Support Division-Child Support Enforcement. Both entities can use wage garnishment to secure support, or arrears, that individuals have failed to pay. With this process, employers are ordered to keep a portion of job earnings. This portion is then given to the parent or guardian requesting support. Wage garnishment can happen without notice to the impacted party.

These entities have other means of addressing delinquent support payers as well. Either the courts or Missouri Family Support may garnish tax refunds, welfare checks, unemployment checks, or place a bank levy. They may also report individuals who fail to pay support to credit agencies. In addition, individuals may have their license suspended or a lien put on their property.

Delinquent Payments

Under Missouri Revised Statutes 454, a case of delinquent payments may be referred for prosecution the Missouri Child Support Enforcement Division. In these cases, the affected party will be notified in person by an official for a pending hearing. On the court date, the non-support payer can make a case for why payments have been late. A continuance may be granted at this time, or the parent may be presented with a new payment schedule.

If a parent does not appear at the hearing or does not show cause for failing to pay, they will likely be held in contempt and may serve jail time. Continued failure to pay results in even more severe outcomes. The following two scenarios can lead to criminal prosecution at the felony level: failure to pay for at least half of a year or absent payments over $5,000 in total.

Modifications

Either the person seeking child support or the person providing support may want to amend the initial agreement in certain situations. For example, the support payer may have an employment change that results in either higher or lower earnings. Or the children being supported may suddenly need more financial assistance. Any changes or modifications must be granted by an official court order, however.

In order to request a change, one or both parties must go before a judge from the same court where the initial support order took place. Amendments don’t happen often, so a person desiring a change should come to family court prepared with evidence to support their position.

The one circumstances where an appearance in court may not be required occurs when a Cost of Living Adjustment clause is included in the support order. In such cases, the amount of support will change automatically every year.

If the judge does agree to a modification, the order may be either temporary or permanent. Temporary modifications might arise, for example, if a parent loses a job or if either a parent or child has a medical emergency.

A permanent modification may come into play when a parent or guardian remarries, has a significant change of jobs, or experiences a disability. Significant changes in the child’s life may also lead to an increase or decrease in payments. Individuals may improve their prospects for modifications if they hire an attorney specializing in this field.

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The Last Word on Missouri Child Support

Child support can be a mind-numbing and emotionally draining process, but with dedicated assistance you can get a fair outcome.

Armed with the above information, you can approach this undertaking with a better mindset. You can find assistance in figuring out what you need to know about child support from court clerks, non-profits, and legal aid organizations. Of course, the best help you can find for your specific needs will be found in an experienced Missouri child support attorney.

You can begin your search by simply entering your ZIP code in our free search tool.

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