Jefferson City Family Lawyer
Helping Missouri Parents Determine and Enforce Their Financial Obligations
Under Missouri law, both of a child’s parents have an obligation to financially support that child until they reach adulthood. It does not matter if the parents are married, divorced, or not in an active relationship with one another. In most cases, the non-custodial parent is required to pay monthly child support to the custodial parent.
If you are involved in a legal dispute regarding these obligations, our Jefferson City child support lawyers can help. Call & Gentry Law Group, LLC, represents both custodial and non-custodial parents looking to do what is best for their families and their children. We can advise you on how Missouri’s child support laws determine a parent’s obligations and what steps you can take to modify or enforce an existing order. We can assist you in negotiating a resolution to these issues with the other parent, or if that proves to be impossible, in presenting your case to a judge.
How Are Child Support Obligations Determined in Jefferson City, Missouri?
Missouri Circuit Courts are responsible for establishing a non-custodial parent’s child support obligations. A Cole County Circuit Court judge will decide a Jefferson City child support case by looking at the state’s Schedules of Basic Child Support Obligations. This is essentially a formula used for setting an amount of monthly support based on the gross income of the parents.
A parent’s gross income consists of any of the following:
- Salaries, wages, overtime pay, commissions, and severance pay from an employer;
- Dividends on stocks and other capital gains;
- Pensions, retirement benefits, and Social Security payments;
- Workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability insurance, and other disability benefits; and
- Self-employment and business income, including rents and royalties.
In addition to the parents’ income, the Circuit Court must also consider:
- the number of children requiring support by the parent;
- the child’s physical, emotional, financial, healthcare, and educational needs;
- in the case of a divorce, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents stayed together; and
- each parent’s reasonable and word-related childcare expenses.
How Long Does a Child Support Order Last in Jefferson City, Missouri?
Once the Circuit Court established a non-custodial parent’s child support obligation, the parent must continue making the required monthly payments until one of the following events occur:
- the child dies;
- the child marries;
- the child has been relinquished from parental control with the custodial parent’s consent and is now self-supporting;
- the child enters into active duty with a branch of the U.S. armed forces;
- the child turns 18.
In some situations, a parent’s child support obligation may continue past the child’s 18th birthday. This includes cases where the child is:
- physically or incapacitated and unable to support themselves financially; or
- still attending high school or college or taking vocational training.
In the case of a child still attending school, the parent’s child support obligations will continue until the child graduates or completes their program, or they reach the age of 21, whichever takes place first. In the case of an incapacitated child, the Circuit Court may extend a parent’s support obligations past the child’s 21st birthday depending on the specific circumstances.
Can a Child Support Order Be Modified in Missouri?
Obviously, a family’s circumstances can change over time. It is possible to modify an existing child support order. But you need to proceed carefully when doing so. Neither parent can impose unilateral changes to an existing support order without the approval of the court.
Ideally, both parents will agree to a modification of child support and present an agreement to the court. But if one parent seeks a modification and the other is opposed, then the judge must hold a hearing. The court will only approve a modification if there has been a substantial change in circumstances and that the child’s best interests will not be harmed.
How Does a Paternity Proceeding Affect Child Support in Jefferson City, Missouri?
When a child is born to a married couple, the husband is automatically presumed to be the child’s legal father. The mother and the putative father can also sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity when the child is born, which is also sufficient to establish legal paternity. Either party can also initiate a legal proceeding to determine or disprove alleged paternity.
The important thing to keep in mind is that once paternity is established, the father can be required to pay child support. The status of the father’s relationship to the mother is irrelevant. So even if the parents were never married or in a long-term relationship, that does not affect the father’s liability for paying child support.
What Happens When a Non-Custodial Parent Fails to Pay Child Support in Jefferson City, Missouri?
A child support order is non-negotiable. Unless a parent seeks modification from the court, they are required to make any required monthly child support payments. If the non-custodial parent fails to comply, the custodial parent–and the State of Missouri–can take legal action to enforce this obligation.
Among the potential consequences for failing to pay child support in Missouri:
- The state can garnish the parent’s wages and seize other funds, such as tax refunds or lottery winnings;
- The state can suspend a parent’s driver’s license;
- In the case of a serious delinquency–i.e., the parent owes more than $5,000 in back child support–the state can charge them with a felony, meaning the parent could face jail time.
Speak with a Jefferson City Child Support Lawyer Today
Child support is often a highly contentious issue in a divorce or paternity proceeding. Even when a parent acknowledges their obligation to financially support their child, there are often a number of factual and legal issues that need to be sorted out. So whether you are the parent seeking child support or the one faced with paying, it is in your best interests to work with an experienced and knowledgeable Jefferson City child support lawyer. Contact Call & Gentry Law Group, LLC, today at (573) 644-6090 to schedule an initial consultation.
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