Written by attorney Margaret P. Murphy

Missouri: I lost my job, how do I lower my child support?

As we all know, the economy has been in a slump. Many people inMissourihave lost their jobs or seen their paycheck and hours cut. Every client or potential client I meet with asks how much child support might be. Most clients are horrified at how high child support can be, even with their lowered income. Many wonder how they can survive paying child support with not much left over for all of their bills. It can be especially galling when the other parent seems to be buying new things all of the time. (If this becomes a larger issue, ask your attorney about a Motion for Accounting of Child Support by the Custodial Parent).

InMissouri, child support is governed by statute, through something called a Form 14. The Form 14 is based on each parties’ gross incomes. It also takes into account if either party has other children, day care expenses, health care expenses and a percentage credit for custody time, among other things.

The truth is that although judges are sympathetic to parents who cannot realistically pay their child support number, they cannot take it into account. Family court’s are governed by the standard that everything needs to be in the child’s best interests. The child needs to have certain essentials, such as a home, utilities, and medical care. The Form presumes that the parent who is earning less money will be receiving child support. It is also assumed that the child needs to have its needs met. If the custodial parent cannot provide for these needs by themselves, the other parent needs to pay child support to ensure these needs are met.

How is gross income determined with changing salaries, or even with job changes? Judges tend to look at the last three years of earned income. And yes, judges can take your overtime into account. If your overtime is not guaranteed, get a letter in writing from your supervisor. This can help your case. Judges tend to look at a parent who has had the same job over the last years, even with changing incomes, to be proceeding forward or up, in their career. Judges generally will review your newest income level and use that number on the chart. They can also look at the last three years of income if the numbers are very different. If you have changed jobs, and you make less than you made three years ago, the Judge will take those numbers and average them out. This number will then be used as gross income.

Many people ask me if they can change their child support after only a few months. I tell my clients to look into it after six months. There has to be a change in circumstances that would lead a Judge to believe that child support be lowered. I recommend my clients contact the State to see if they can help them change their child support amount before committing to litigation that can be costly and extended.

A growing trend inMissouriis also for parents to opt for no child support exchanged between the two of them. One parent pays for daycare, and the other covers health insurance. Getting to this agreement is sometimes a matter of necessity.

Additional resources provided by the author

Missouri Revised statutes, Form 14 guidelines, Supreme Court Rule 88.01, Missouri case law

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