Who Must Pay Child Support in Missouri?
According to Missouri law, both parents are responsible for supporting the child’s needs.
In most cases, the parent who spends less time with the child or children has to make the child support payments because it’s assumed that the parent who spends more time with the child already spends the money on their needs.
How is Child Support Determined in Missouri?
Child support is covered under Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 452 and enforced by Chapter 454.
Missouri has a Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations, but every case is unique. Unless there are compelling reasons, judges follow the schedule.
Child support includes food, housing, clothing, transportation, and health care. Sometimes, the non-custodial parent must pay for daycare, extracurricular activities, and private school expenses.
To determine the amount of child support, parents must fill out a Child Support Amount Calculation Worksheet and provide proof of their income. Support is based to a large degree on how much net income each parent makes. Net income is derived from calculating gross income and making certain allowable deductions. A parent’s gross income includes:
- Dividends and interest
- Severance pay
- Trust income
- Partnership distributions
- Social security benefits
- Retirement benefits
- Worker’s compensation benefits
- Unemployment compensation
- Disability insurance benefits
- Veterans’ disability benefits
- Military allowances for subsistence and quarters
- Rental or royalty income (gross receipts minus the ordinary and necessary expenses incurred)
When appropriate, gross income can also include wholly or in part:
- Overtime compensation
- Earnings from secondary employment
- Recurring capital gains
- Retained earnings
- Significant employment-related benefits
Payment is based on Form No. 14 Child Support Amount Calculation Worksheet. It looks at the individual income of each parent as well as their combined income, if the parent is already paying support for another child, and the number of children each has legal custody of that resides in their home.
Child support guidelines are a set schedule, but parents are not required to follow the guidelines if they agree otherwise. A judge will still need to review and approve the support order.
The lowest child support payment is $50 per month, and for each additional $50, the parent earns the payment increases. For each additional child, the payment will increase as well.
Courts may also consider the following to determine if a deviation from a presumed guideline amount is warranted:
- The financial needs and resources of the child
- The financial resources and needs of the parents
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved
- The physical and emotional condition of the child
- The child’s educational needs
- The child’s physical and legal custody arrangements, including the amount of time the child spends with each parent and the reasonable expenses associated with the custody or visitation arrangements
- The reasonable work-related childcare expenses of each parent
- Extraordinary medical or educational expenses
- Travel costs if parents live too far apart
- Any other factors the court considers relevant
How do I make or receive payments?
You may mail payments (check or money order) to the Family Support Payment Center if you pay child support. Payments can also be made online or automatically withdrawn from a checking or savings account.
Custodial parents may receive payments through:
- Direct payment from the non-custodial parent.
- Payment made to the Family Support Payment Center, so there is a record of payments in case that information is necessary for court.
- Wage withholding on the parent’s paycheck.
What is the Missouri Child Support Calculator?
Missouri’s child support guidelines are actually a form called Form No. 14 Child Support Amount Calculation Worksheet. To complete the child support calculator, you will need information on both parents’ incomes, support costs (meaning, payments already made for this child or financial obligations for the care of other children), spousal maintenance (alimony) paid or received, percent of custody, and other expenses involved in raising the child.
When Does Child Support End in Missouri?
Child support ends when the court or the FSD terminates the child support order.
The FSD will send the custodial parent a Notice of Intent to Stop Collection of Current Support 90 days before the child’s 18th birthday. If the child meets the requirements to receive support after they turn 18, the custodial parent must return the form.
If it is not returned, FSD stops the collection of current support for the child on their 18th birthday. However, the non-custodial parent may still be obligated to pay support in some circumstances.
Specific circumstances that dictate the end of child support include when the child:
- Enters active duty in the military
- Becomes self-supporting, provided that the custodial parent has relinquished the child from parental control by express or implied consent
- Reaches age 18 unless other certain factors apply
- Reaches 21, unless the provisions of the child support order specifically extend the parental support order past the child’s 21st birthday, such as if the child is physically or mentally incapacitated from supporting himself and insolvent and unmarried.
If a child turns 18 and attends a secondary school, the parental support obligation will continue until the child completes instruction or turns 21, whichever happens first.
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
If you want to apply for child support services, complete the appropriate application online, visit your local CSE office or call the information line at 1-800-859-7999.
A child support request can be made during a legal separation, divorce, or child custody proceedings. You must file documents with the Missouri Circuit Court in the county where you or your former spouse lives.
However, if your spouse refuses to pay child support until your divorce is final or you can’t agree on the amount that should be paid, the court will determine a temporary child support order.
Read More: Counseling Children Through Divorce
Factors that May Impact Child Support in Missouri
If you have a good reason why monthly child support payments should be increased or decreased from the Missouri child support guidelines recommendation, you can ask a court to adjust the amount before issuing a final order.
A court will only deviate from the guidelines after considering all factors relevant to the child’s care and well-being, focusing on these issues:
- the child’s financial resources and needs
- the parents’ financial resources and needs
- the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved
- the child’s physical/emotional condition and educational needs
- the physical and legal custody arrangements, including the amount of time the child spends with each parent and the expenses associated with the custody or visitation arrangements, and
- the parents’ work-related childcare expenses.
Once a child support order is in place, you can still ask the court to increase or decrease the payment amount, but it involves a different process.
What is the impact of childcare costs on child support?
Due to the high childcare costs, Missouri has specialized guidelines that consider childcare costs separately from the general costs of raising a child to calculate child support payments.
Can a paying parent stop support if they file for bankruptcy?
No, child support remains an obligation in bankruptcy.
A parent’s child support obligations will continue. However, filing for bankruptcy may affect many other aspects of a divorce, so it’s a good idea to contact an experienced family law attorney if you receive this type of notice.
Do I have to support my step-children after my divorce?
A spouse with no legal tie to the step-children will have no child support obligation and be granted no custody rights. Children of a prior marriage should already be adequately supported by a child support order from the earlier divorce or paternity action.
What happens if a parent attempts to avoid paying child support by refusing to work or working less?
Where a parent is willfully unemployed or underemployed, a court can “impute” income. This means a judge will determine an amount this parent should be making based on factors like employment history, current job market conditions, education, and training. Child support will then be calculated based on that parent’s imputed income.
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
Medical insurance coverage is usually included in the Missouri Child Support Guideline calculation on Form 14. Sometimes it is negotiated by the parents.
A child’s uncovered medical expenses, such as deductibles, co-pays, dental and vision expenses, are usually divided between the parents, equally or in some other proportions, and are paid in addition to the monthly child support obligation. Form 14 presumes that the parent receiving support pays the first $250 per year per child for uncovered medical expenses.
Establishing Paternity in Missouri
Parents who are not married can establish legal paternity for a child by signing an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity at the hospital when the baby is born. When both parents complete this Affidavit, the man becomes the child’s legal father, and his name is placed on the child’s birth certificate.
Suppose the parents don’t complete the Affidavit at the hospital. In that case, this can occur later by contacting the Department of Health and Senior Services Bureau of Vital Records or the Family Support Division (FSD) to get an Affidavit or for help completing one.
When the mother is married, but not to the child’s father, the mother and her husband must fill out the Husband’s Denial of Paternity, which is part of the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. If the husband is not cooperative or his location is unknown, the married mother may apply for Child Support services to assist with getting an order that establishes paternity.
You can get free paternity (DNA) testing through the Family Support Division. The test involves a simple swipe of a swab inside the cheek of the child, mother, and man. If the results show at least a 98% probability that the man is the father, then the man is the presumed father under Missouri law.
It is important to note that genetic testing alone does not establish legal paternity. Parents must complete an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity or obtain an order naming the man as the child’s father.
For help with paternity questions, call 855-454-8037.
Enforcing Child Support Orders in Missouri
The Missouri Department of Social Services handles child support enforcement issues through the Family Support Division (FSD) and the Child Support Enforcement program. Family court judges also have the authority to enforce child support orders.
FSD uses an administrative, non-judicial process to:
- establish paternity of children born to unmarried couples
- set up child and medical support obligations
- review existing orders and adjust them if necessary
- collect, process, and distribute child support payments
- work with other states to ensure that parents pay their support orders, and
- enforce child and medical support obligations
FSD and the family courts have several tools they can use to collect payment from parents with past-due child support accounts (known as arrearages), including:
- Missouri child support orders include a withholding provision. FSD can use this to withhold income from wages, salaries, bonuses, and unemployment and worker’s compensation benefits.
- Intercepting a parent’s state and federal tax returns and lottery winnings.
- If a paying parent fails to provide health insurance for a child, FSD can order an employer to enroll the child in a health care plan.
- Report to consumer credit bureaus which will damage those parents’ credit ratings.
- File liens against homes, land, and real property such as cars, boats, RVs, or even some financial accounts). When this happens, the paying parent can’t sell or transfer any of these assets until child support is brought current.
- Suspension of the parent’s driver’s license, recreational licenses, professional or occupational licenses.
- If a paying parent moves to another state, FSD will contact the other state and make sure the parent still pays the child support ordered in Missouri.
- FSD can file a contempt order. This will require the paying parent to go to court and “show cause” why support hasn’t been paid on time.
- FSD can refer cases for criminal prosecution.
Modifying Missouri Child Support Payments
Child support, maintenance, and modifications are governed by §452.370 of the Missouri Statutes.
A court can modify an order from an existing child support obligation if either parent experiences a substantial change in circumstances that continuing payments would be unreasonable. That might be due to job loss, chronic health problems, or other similar changes.
Some of the factors that determine if a child support order should be modified are:
- The child’s financial needs.
- The parents’ resources and the non-custodial parent’s needs.
- The standard of living the child would have if the parents’ marriage did not dissolve.
- The physical and emotional needs of the child.
- The child’s educational needs.
- Physical custody and legal custody arrangements.
- The childcare expenses of each parent.
If the application of these factors would result in a 20% or more change in child support payments, that would be enough to initiate modification of child support orders.
A judge will review both parents’ financial resources, including a new spouse or partner’s contributions when considering the reasonableness of child support payments. It will also evaluate the earning capacity of the unemployed parent (often referred to as imputing), not merely lost wages.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provided more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a substantially similar statement.
Which Agency Handles Child Support Matters in Missouri?
Missouri’s child support is handled by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division (FSD). FSD performs critical child support functions and uses an administrative process to:
- Establish Legal Paternity – FSD can arrange for a paternity test. If the test shows the man is the child’s father, FSD or the Court may enter an order establishing paternity.
- Establishment and Review of Support Orders – Helps to establish child and medical support
- orders when a support order does not exist. FSD also reviews existing child and medical
- support orders to determine if the orders should be changed.
- Enforcement of Support Orders by withholding income, tax intercepts, credit bureau reporting, filing liens, suspending licenses, and other similar actions
- Work with other states to collect support when noncustodial parents live outside Missouri
How do I contact DSS?
- Online: Visit mydss.mo.gov to apply for benefits, check your status, report a change, or learn more about our programs
- Chat Online: Visit mydss.mo.gov and select “DSS Chat” to get answers about your case or general information
- In Person: Schedule an appointment or visit your local Resource Center (check the map for office hours before visiting)
- Text: For answers to basic questions (not case-specific) text 855-684-9242 Monday – Friday, 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
- FSD Info Line*: 855-373-4636 Monday – Friday, 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
You can submit documents by:
Family Support Division
PO Box 6790
Jefferson City, MO 65102
You can also use the DSS office locator tool to find a Family Support Office (Resource Center), Child Support Office, Food Pantry, or Community Action Agency near you.