Missouri marches to the beat of its own drum -- at least when it comes to child support. Support can be ordered by the court, but the Family Support Division can do it, too, without the usual obligatory court appearance. In either case, the basic rules remain the same, though there are a few wrinkles.
The Income Shares Formula
All states use one of three different formulas or models to calculate child support. Missouri is in the mainstream in this respect – it uses the income shares method along with 38 other states. This calculation uses both parents’ incomes. It assumes that the custodial parent pays for the children’s needs directly when they're in her care and the noncustodial parent should make regular payments to her household to help defray these costs. The income shares model is a somewhat complex equation, but you can download the child support worksheet – Form 14 -- from the Missouri Courts website. Completing it should give you a pretty accurate idea of what you or your ex will pay. In addition to your respective incomes, the worksheet addresses other factors such as your children’s needs, parenting time, work-related child care, support for children from other relationships, alimony and health care costs.
Missouri courts can reduce child support when a custodial parent is guilty of interfering with visitation without good cause.
Modifying Support Orders
Life happens, so if an event occurs such as job loss or a change in custody that would significantly affect child support calculations, you can go back to court and ask for an adjustment to your order. You must prove that the change in circumstances results in a new calculation that’s at least 20 percent different from your initial order. The recalculation is effective beginning with the date you file a court petition asking for the change. If you continue paying while you’re waiting for the court to hear the matter and decide, you won’t be able to get your money back for any overpayments. However, if you don’t pay at all during this time, you’ll accumulate arrears.
Child Support Arrears
Missouri treats child support arrears much the same as other states, but with one extra penalty. If you fall behind, you can expect wage garnishment for the amount you would regularly owe, plus an additional 50 percent of that which goes toward paying off your past due balance.
Duration of Child Support
You might end up paying child support for much longer if you live in Missouri rather than another state. Although the law provides that support can end when your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last, in some cases you might have to pay until she turns 21. Missouri is one of the few states that continues child support if your child goes to college. If your child is enrolled for at least 12 credit hours per term and is passing in at least six of them, you must pay child support until she turns 21 or graduates, whichever happens first.
How to Terminate Support
The Family Support Division, which is in charge of collecting child support in most cases, will send the custodial parent a Notice of Intention to Stop Collection of Current Support three months before his child turns 18. If your child meets any of the requirements that allow support to continue – she hasn’t graduated high school yet or she’s been accepted and has enrolled at a college -- your ex can simply return the form to the state. The FSD will continue collecting support on the child's behalf. If your ex does nothing, the FSD will stop collecting your support payments, but this doesn’t officially make your obligation to pay go away.
Your order will terminate automatically when your child turns 21, but you don't have to wait that long if she graduates high school and doesn't go on to college, or she leaves college or graduates before her 21st birthday. You can file an affidavit, asking for official termination of your order. You can download the affidavit form from the Missouri Courts website. File it with the court if a judge issued your support order, or with the FSD if your order originated with that agency.
Your ex is supposed to notify you when your child is no longer eligible for child support. If the FSD is handling her support case, she must notify the agency as well. If she fails to do so and you keep paying, she can be ordered to reimburse you.