Missouri law states that a court may order either or both parents of a child to pay child support in a divorce or legal separation. The Missouri Supreme Court sets guidelines for how much a parent should pay in child support. In May 2021, it issued an order adopting a new worksheet, Form No. 14, that serves as a Missouri child support calculator. The child support changes took effect on November 4.
The new Form 14 and the Missouri Supreme Court’s comments show three significant changes to Missouri child support:
State law does not provide a specific method for calculating child support. It merely says that either or both parents should “pay an amount reasonable or necessary for the support of the child” based on six factors:
The Missouri Supreme Court maintains a schedule of presumed basic child support obligations. The schedule generally assumes that one parent, the “obligor,” will make monthly child support payments to the other parent, the “obligee.”
The obligee is usually the parent with whom the child primarily lives. The court has stated that, if the parents share parenting time roughly 50/50, the parent with higher monthly gross income is the obligor unless they can show that they pay the majority of expenses like childcare and health insurance.
“Adjusted gross income” (AGI) consists of a parent’s gross monthly income minus certain adjustments allowed by the court’s guidelines. Gross income includes wages, salary, commissions, dividends, Social Security benefits, retirement benefits, disability benefits, unemployment benefits, and various other forms of income. It also includes spousal maintenance that a parent is currently receiving. It does not include Medicaid benefits, food stamps, TANF benefits, SSI benefits, and other need-based benefits.
Once a parent has determined their annual gross income, they can divide that number by twelve to get their monthly gross income. According to Line 2 of Form 14, a parent can deduct the following to get their AGI:
The schedule published by the Missouri Supreme Court shows the presumed amount of child support based on two factors:
Form 14 then divides this basic obligation between the two parents using each parent’s proportionate share of the combined AGI. For example, suppose Parent A has an AGI of $5,000 per month, and Parent B has an AGI of $20,000 per month. The combined monthly AGI is $25,000. Parent A’s proportionate share is 25%, and Parent B’s is 75%.
The form then asks how much each parent spends on “work-related child care costs,” health insurance, additional medical expenses, and other “agreed-upon or court-ordered extraordinary child-rearing costs.” That amount is added to the basic child support amount.
Form 14 gives Parent B an additional opportunity to claim credits and adjustments to this amount. Line 10 of Form 14 lets Parent B claim a credit in the amount of their share of the child-rearing costs. Line 11 allows an adjustment of the child support amount based on the number of overnight visits the children have with Parent B.
The Missouri Supreme Court’s comments to the new Form 14 provide guidelines for the Line 11 adjustment. If the children have one or more, but fewer than thirty-six overnight visits during the year with Parent B, Parent B’s child support obligation may be reduced by six percent of the basic child support amount rounded to the nearest whole number. At the other end of the guidelines, 181 to 183 overnight visits would mean a reduction of 34% of the basic child support amount.
The Line 11 adjustment is only available if the obligor parent’s monthly AGI is above a specific amount based on the number of children. This can be rebutted as unjust and inappropriate in some circumstances.
A parent can request an increase or decrease in the amount of child support, or other changes to the order, by filing a motion to modify child support in the court that granted the original order. They must be able to show “changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unreasonable.”
In its commentary to Line 2 of Form 14, the Missouri Supreme Court clarifies how prior support orders may influence the modification of another child support obligation. Suppose that, before the court established Parent B’s obligation to pay child support to Parent A (“Order AB”), Parent B was already obligated to pay $500 per month in child support to Parent C (“Order BC”). This was included in the calculation of Parent B’s AGI.
After the issuance of Order AB, Parent C moves to modify Order BC, and child support is increased to $750 per month. A comment on Form 14 addresses which child support amount may be deducted from Parent B’s gross income in a motion to modify Order AB:
Mark A. Wortman is a Kansas City family attorney. He has dedicated his practice to representing people in divorce, child support, child custody, and other family law matters. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case, please contact us today online or at (816) 523-6100.