Both parents have a legal obligation to support their children financially after a divorce or separation. This can be tough if one or both parents are experiencing economic problems. Child support can have serious long-term financial consequences for both parents and children. It's essential to work with an experienced family law attorney who will protect the best interests of your children.
The family law attorneys at Lecour Family Law can help you navigate the system and reach a fair outcome. As experienced child support attorneys, we have the knowledge and resources necessary to make your case successful from start to finish.
Child Support in Missouri
Child support is a payment from one parent to another after a separation or divorce intended to help cover the costs of raising the children they have together. The parent who cares for a child most of the time (referred to as the "custodial parent") tends to receive child support payments because the law assumes the custodial parent already spends money on the child's care. The non-custodial parent usually makes the payments.
How is Child Support Determined?
Statutory guidelines in Missouri dictate how child support is calculated, but the answer is rarely cut-and-dried. You can find the guidelines, forms, and more detailed information on the Missouri Courts website. Among the paperwork you must complete and file in a Missouri divorce, Form No. 14 is required if you have minor children. Missouri Courts use Form 14 to help calculate child support payments. Although Form 14 is only one page, the directions are complicated, and it's best to have an attorney work with you to complete the information. Numerous factors could affect child support, including:
- the gross annual income of both parents
- spousal support and alimony payments
- number of children involved in the case
- the physical and emotional needs of the children
- the cost of work-related childcare, healthcare, and other expenses for the children
Family court judges can deviate from the guidelines if they believe a different amount is in the child's best interests. Common reasons for deviating from the guidelines include extraordinary expenses for medical or educational needs. It's essential to remember that child support is a child's right - not a parent's right. No matter what side of the question you are on, it's best to have an experienced family law attorney on your side.
When Does Child Support End?
In Missouri, child support typically ends when the child turns 18, but a few exceptions exist:
- Support could end sooner if the child marries, joins the military, or becomes self-supporting before age 18;
- Support could continue until age 21 if the child is in school/college;
- Support may continue indefinitely if the child has a physical or mental incapacity requiring additional and continual care.
For a legally mandated child support obligation to be terminated, the court must be notified in writing. Assuming one of the above conditions exists, allowing support to end, the parent making custody payments must take steps to end support. The process is covered in a publication by the Missouri Courts titled "In Your Child's Best Interest: A Handbook for Separating/Divorcing Parents."
Modifying Child Support in Missouri
If you have experienced a substantial change in circumstances, you may be eligible to request a modification of orders from the court. Ensure that your substantial change has the potential to be permanent, as temporary changes may not hold up in court. Valid changes in circumstances include:
- the loss of a job
- a substantial increase or decrease in salary
- changes in the child's healthcare needs
- if the child has become physically or mentally disabled
Enforcing Child Support in Missouri
Child support is necessary to provide your children with the care they deserve. If under the terms of the child support award, you are owed money, and your former spouse refuses to pay, you should seek advice from an experienced family law attorney. There are many ways to recover child support amounts in arrears and ensure that future child support payments are made promptly.
Contact Lecour Family Law Today
If you are searching for a family law attorney in the St. Charles area, contact the Lecour Family Law at (636) 685-0440. We offer compassionate and aggressive representation for family law issues, including divorce, child support, custody, paternity, and alimony.