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How is child support calculated?

In Missouri, child support is calculated by completing a form. There are many variables entered into the form that determines what the eventual child support amount will be. These include but are not limited to the following:

1. Monthly (gross) income. While the court can consider the amount taken out in taxes, insurance, living costs, and the contribution of income from a new spouse, for the purposes of this section of the form, it is the gross income that counts.

2. The number of children primarily residing in each parent's custody. This does not include the children under the divorce or paternity case you are currently litigating, only other kids living with you. If child support is being paid for these other kids, the Court will want that information as well.

3. Work-related child care costs. This doesn't mean the monthly cost of hiring a sitter when you go to the movies, it is only for childcare costs while you are at work. Daycare and before and after school programs are primarily what is entered here.

4. Health insurance costs. This is your monthly insurance costs for the children only. If you are paying for health insurance for the children, you are likely paying for yourself as well as part of a group policy. Call your insurance company and find out what the cost for just the children each month is. (You could also have your attorney do this for you, but if you do it, you don't have to pay for it)

5. Uninsured extraordinary medical costs or other extraordinary costs. I have seen judges apply this in a variety of ways. One judge always adds some money here if one parent lives out of town and has increased costs to visit the children. Oftentimes, this section is used for those with children with special needs, as their costs can be much higher than the generic form would account for.

6. Amount of overnight visitation. The form accounts for the amount of time each parent spends with the child and deducts from the overall amount accordingly. 

All of these variables and more are put into the Form 14, and your base child support amount comes from that. Keep in mind, however, that if the Court finds that the amount is inappropriate or unjust, it can deviate upward or downward. If you and the opposing party are in agreement about the child support amount, you can also deviate upward or downward, as long as your reason is good enough to have the Judge sign off on it.

Please note that this is a very simplistic view of the calculations that go into deciding how much child support is paid. A failure to include one of these key numbers or to overlook any part of Form 14 could cost you thousands of dollars. If you are involved in a case involving child support, set up a consultation with our family law attorney at (417) 221-4113 or by filling out the form at the link above.