Anybody with children will tell you that they’re expensive. The law presumes that the more custody or visitation time you have with your children, the more expensive they are. Child support is money paid from one party to the other to help cover the cost incurred in supporting the minor children during the time you have them. Obviously, the monthly amount spent on children varies among families and even varies within the same family throughout the years. It would be difficult to come up with an average amount to cover this cost.
How do you determine how much you will owe or receive in child support payments?
In 1989, the Missouri Supreme Court adopted Rule 88.01 (https://www.courts.mo.gov/courts/ClerkHandbooksP2RulesOnly.nsf/c0c6ffa99df4993f86256ba50057dcb8/bb1f5facef06aef386256ca60052137f?OpenDocument) to provide a standard method of calculating child support in Missouri. The rule states a presumption that the support calculation generated by using Civil Procedure Form No. 14 (https://www.courts.mo.gov/file.jsp?id=29740) is the appropriate amount of support to award. By making this amount only a presumption, the rule leaves open the opportunity for parents to either agree on a different amount of support or, absent an agreement, to present evidence to persuade the judge to use a different amount of support.
In calculating support in using Form 14, you must first determine which parent should be the paying parent and which parent should receive support. As a general rule, the parent who has the children the majority of the time is the parent entitled to receive support. In a case where the parents truly share custody equally, the parent who makes more money becomes the paying parent. Despite the fact that the parties share equal custody, the court strives to equalize the standard of living enjoyed by the children in the parents’ households.
There are many different factors that are included in calculating the presumed amount of support including the number of children, incomes of the parents, any support or maintenance already paid by the parents, other children born to and residing with the parents, health insurance cost for the children, daycare cost for the children and any other agreed upon or court ordered cost for the children. In addition, one of the more complicated factors that determines the presumed amount of support is the non-custodial parent’s overnight visitation credit.
The overnight visitation credit has a large impact on the amount of child support paid or received in any given calculation. Without the overnight visitation credit, the presumed amount of support shows what the paying parent would pay if the children spent zero overnights at ther house. Because the law presumes that the paying parent is supporting the children when they spend the night at his or her house, the overnight visitation credit reduces the support obligation accordingly. The rules assist in calculating the appropriate amount of child support to an extent by application of the child support overnight chart below:
Number of overnights/year Credit
Less than 36 0%
Based on this chart, even in a situation where the parents share equal custody of the children, the paying parent is only entitled to receive an overnight visitation credit of 34%; however, the Rules allow for the judge to apply a credit over 34% and up to 50% based on the consideration of certain factors including the incomes of the parties as well as each parents’ responsibility for the payment of non-duplicated fixed expenditures. Non-duplicated fixed expenditures include those expenses for the children that only need to be paid by one household and, thus, are by there very nature not born by both parents. An example of a non-duplicated fixed expenditure would be the enrollment fee for summer camp or school supplies.
There is clearly a lot of room for parents to disagree about the numbers to be inserted into a Form 14 and a lot of opportunity for them to argue for or against a presumed amount of child support. At a trial or hearing, each party would submit his or her own Form 14 and present evidence in support of those figures and evidence in support of any deviation from the presumed amount if desired. The judge may adopt one parent’s Form 14 or, if the judge disagrees with the Form 14s presented by both parents, the judge will calculate the Court’s own Form 14 for use in the Judgment.
There are numerous other ways the presumed amount of child support can be higher or lower given that a change in any of the variables has a direct impact on the amount. For example, the court might use an income for a parent that is higher than what he or she is actually earning if the court finds he or she has decreased their income intentionally. Additionally, the court might add into a parent’s income benefits received by that parent as a condition of his or her employment.
Emily Fretwell and Paul Graham of the Call & Gentry Law Group are skilled at calculating the correct Form 14 and presenting evidence in support of or rebutting a Form 14. Having the best family law attorney on your side can make all the difference in what amount of support you ultimately pay or receive. Call us. We are here to help!