If you live in Missouri and have minor children, both you and the children's other parent have a duty to support them financially. This duty continues after divorce and is enforced by the family courts by assessing an amount of child support that the parent without primary custody pays to the parent with whom the children live most of the time.
In order to change your child support payments in Missouri, it is important to understand how the amount was assessed in the first place, what procedures you must follow, and how to justify seeking a change in the amount.
Calculating Missouri Child Support
Missouri courts often accept an amount of child support agreed upon by both parents if it appears reasonable given the circumstances. But if the parents cannot mutually agree on an amount, the court is obligated to use the Missouri child support guidelines and calculator, known as Form 14.
Form 14 guidelines take into account many factors when assessing appropriate child support, including gross income of each parent, the number of children needing support and the amount of time the children spend overnight with each parent during the year. Judges presume that the amount determined under the Form 14 factors is correct. However, they have discretion to award a different amount if circumstances warrant. Day care and health insurance costs can increase the amount of child support.
Once the court determines the appropriate amount of support under Form 14, either party may appeal it. A parent has 30 days from the date the child support administrative order is mailed to appeal it to the circuit court.
Modifying Missouri Child Support
Child support awards are reviewed after three years by the state's Missouri Family Courts Division. You can ask for a modification of the court's order before three years only if there is a change in circumstances so substantial and continuing that the payments become unreasonable, according to the law. To prove a substantial change, the judge compares the factors in Form 14 to the new circumstances; the result must be a 20 percent or more change from the original child support calculation. The parent seeking to modify the payment has the burden of proving the substantial change.
Motion to Modify
If you think you can establish the requisite change in circumstances, act quickly or have your attorney file a motion to modify child support. If you win, the modification is retroactive to the date you filed the motion. Include evidence of the change in circumstance that warrants modifying the amount of support. For example, if you lost your job, include the termination letter from your employer.
The forms to file this motion are free and provided by the Missouri Supreme Court. You can download the packet from the court website and fill it in. You must sign the motion under penalty of perjury before a notary. When you file the motion, include a case information sheet with the documents.
If you don't have the money to pay the court motion fees, fill out and send in the Motion to Proceed as a Poor Person. If you qualify, you will be allowed to pursue the matter without fees.