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How Missouri Courts Calculate Child Support

Calculating child support in Missouri is a complex, income-based process. In a divorce, it is typical for the parent who makes less money to receive child support from the other parent.

Child support calculations begin with some basic information, outlined below, and may be adjusted for individual circumstances. Here are some of the main considerations:

  1. How many children need support? Support includes minor children up to the age of 18 in Missouri and age 21 in cases of children attending college.
  2. Is either parent paying or receiving child support from another case? If a non-custodial parent is paying court-ordered child support for other children, that must be factored in.
  3. How much does each spouse earn or capable of earning? A judge will want to know how much each parent makes annually and the difference between their incomes. This is easy to calculate if both parents have steady employment. It becomes more complex if one spouse is:
    • Self-employed, and/or income varies from year to year. A judge might take an average of several years’ worth of income to calculate what the parent is likely to earn in the future.
    • Unemployed. Just because the current income is zero doesn’t mean the non-custodial parent is off the hook. A judge will want to know if they were fired or quit, and why. The court will examine employment history and probably assume the parent can earn the same amount again. Even if they have little employment history, the court will likely see no reason why the person couldn’t earn minimum wage.
    • A student now, but expected to graduate with a degree, certificate or other credentials that will increase earning potential.
  1. Cost of health care – medical, dental and vision care. If you cover the health insurance for your children, find out from your insurance company or HR what percentage is for kids and for yourself.
  2. Maintenance, aka spousal support or alimony. If the custodial parent is requesting maintenance as well, the judge will need to weigh the amount of that request.
  3. Optional expenses. These may be included in calculations or left out. If parents already have an agreement to split expenses, and trust each other to uphold the arrangement, there may be no need to include them in court-mandated child support payments. Common ones include:
    • Day care expenses
    • Private school tuition
    • Special education needs
  1. Parenting Time Credit. The number of overnights the non-custodial parent spends with children each year may be factored in to reduce the total amount of child support owed. The credit ranges from 0% to 50%, depending on circumstances. To view a chart of overnights and credit percentages, see our blog How Visitation Credit Can Affect Child Support.

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program, a division of the Missouri Department of Social Services, assists eligible families with numerous child support matters. Custodial and non-custodial parents can review information and apply for services on the CSE website.

With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions or to schedule a confidential consultation, contact us today.