By law, each parent owes a duty of financial support to their children, whether married to each other or not. Given that, in a divorce or legal separation proceeding, or in a petition for child support filed by one parent upon the other, the court will likely conclude that child support is payable, typically from the non-custodial parent to the parent with primary physical custody of the child.
The exception would tend to be in those situations where each parent has physical custody for an equal amount of time, and each parent’s earnings are roughly the same.
The amount of child support is determined considering several factors, including…
The basic child support obligation, as identified by the guidelines, is inputted into Missouri’s “Form 14”, which is completed in every paternity case, as well as for divorces or legal separations where a child was born of the marriage, and in every petition for child support by one parent to the other. To these “basic costs”, the Form 14 then adds work-related child care costs, health insurance expense, uninsured medical expenses and any extraordinary child rearing costs to arrive at a total cost of raising a child in any particular case.
In addition, the Form 14 calculates each parent’s monthly income and its proportion to the combined income of both parents. To do this, it takes into consideration what each parent earns plus whatever amount either parent receives in spousal support, reduced by the amounts each parent already pays in child or spousal support and the amount each parent already pays for children within their primary physical custody.
This proportion of total parental income attributable to each parent is then multiplied against the total child-rearing expense identified in the Form 14 to arrive at each parent’s child support obligation. For example, if each parent’s income is 50% of the total, then their child support obligation would be 50% of the total child-rearing costs identified on the Form 14.
However, to calculate what a parent will actually be required to pay in child support to the other parent only begins with what the Form 14 calculates as their monthly child support obligation. This amount may be reduced by an adjustment that accounts for the actual time the child in question spends with the parent paying support. In addition, the parent paying support also receives credit for the amounts they spend on work-related child care expense, the child’s health insurance, uninsured medical expense, and any extraordinary child rearing costs over and above what is included in “the chart”.
Finally, whatever the Form 14 says one parent should pay to the other in child support can be challenged by either parent as either being too much, or too little, if they can prove that the actual expenses of raising the child in question are either more or less than what is estimated by the Form 14.
Confused? Don’t worry, you are not alone. This is one area where an experienced and skillful family law attorney, such as Cynthia Fox, can be invaluable in seeing that the correct amount of child support is established.