Parents have a responsibility to make decisions in the best interests of their children. This means that when co-parents separate or do not live together, they must decide and make financial arrangements related to the cost of raising children. The law holds both parents accountable for making sure their child has appropriate housing, food, medical care, clothing, and education.
Missouri law provides a formula for determining a monthly child support amount, but the parents’ individual situations and circumstances can impact or complicate this process. If you and your co-parent need assistance with establishing a child support amount or you are looking to change your existing agreement, a Des Peres child support lawyer can help. Our dedicated family law attorneys have extensive experience with helping parents mutually create child support agreements they are happy with and serve the best interests of their children. Call Jones Family Law Group, LLC today to set up your consultation.
Law Provides Formula to Calculate Minimum Support
Both parents must contribute to their child’s well-being, regardless of income or unique circumstances. The parent who lives with the children most of the time usually will receive support from the parent who lives apart from them. Courts review all child support arrangements to make sure they meet the children’s best interests.
You can calculate your basic child support obligation using Form 14, available from the Missouri Courts system. This calculator uses each parent’s income to determine the proportion of the costs for which they will be responsible. However, other factors could impact this calculation. A Des Peres attorney can review a family’s specific situation and advise them whether a court might determine that the calculation represents the children’s best interest in a particular case.
When couples divorce, judges try to ensure that a child does not suffer a drastic change in lifestyle. If the parent with primary physical custody (or sole custody) does not have the means to maintain the accustomed lifestyle, a judge might order the wealthier parent to pay more support. Similarly, if a child has special needs or a custodial parent cannot work full-time due to childcare responsibilities or other circumstances, the custodial parent might receive more support than the formula requires.
There are many factors that the Court is required to consider when calculating Form 14 child support. Each family has unique needs and the guidelines for calculating support anticipated most of those circumstances. A Des Peres attorney can help you determine which guidelines and circumstances apply to you and your family.
Child Support Issues with Only One Legal Parent
An unmarried mother is her child’s only legal parent unless the father acknowledges paternity or unless he is on the birth certificate. If the Father’s name is not listed on the birth certificate of the child, the mother and father may both submit forms to the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records affirming that the man is the child’s biological or legal parent. Once they do so, the father will have all the rights and obligations of legal parenthood that the unmarried mother has, including the right to custody and visitation and the obligation to pay child support.
If a mother does not want the father to have a role in the child’s life, she might refuse to acknowledge him as the child’s other parent. In such cases, she cannot claim child support. On the other hand, if she wishes to collect child support from a father who will not acknowledge paternity, she could work with a Des Peres attorney and sue to establish paternity in court.
If a same-sex couple adopts a child, or one partner adopts the other partner’s biological or adopted child, the partners are both legal parents to the child. Both are responsible for child support when the couple separates. However, if there was no legal adoption, the legal parent’s partner is not responsible for paying child support.
Post-Judgment Child Support Actions
As time goes on, circumstances change, and modifying a child support agreement could be necessary. Events that could merit child support modification include:
- Parent suffers a disabling accident or health crisis
- Child becomes disabled or requires special services
- Child exhibits a special skill or talent
- Parent remarries or has another child
- Parent loses a job and is unable to find another that offers similar pay
- Parent gets a sizable wage increase
- Parent relocates out of the area
Parents may not modify child support without court approval, even if you and your co-parent agree to a modification. The court will review any modification to determine whether it is in the children’s best interests before approving it.
Although job loss could be the basis for modifying child support, you and your co-parent should be aware that if a judge believes a parent could be earning more, the court may impute income for child support purposes. Judges will review educational, employment history, and spending habits when deciding whether to impute income. The courts are more likely to impute income when there is evidence that a parent is intentionally under-earning or under-reporting income to avoid paying child support.
Seek Legal Help from a Des Peres Child Support Attorney
Even though the state provides a worksheet for calculating child support, many other factors might influence the decision in a particular case. Having a capable legal professional in your corner could help you create a manageable arrangement for the paying parent and give the children the support and protection they deserve.
You do not have to handle matters of child support on your own. Trust a Des Peres child support lawyer to help you navigate this complex process so you can focus on your family. At Jones Family Law Group, LLC, we will fight tirelessly to create an agreement that works for you and your needs. Call today to discuss your unique situation with a dedicated attorney.