If you’re one of many Missouri parents getting ready to navigate the family justice system because you or your spouse have filed for divorce, your children’s financial needs will no doubt be a central focus of proceedings. Each family’s circumstances are unique, so your children’s needs must be determined through a careful review of numerous factors, including educational needs, medical issues, daily cost of living, parental income and more. If it is likely that the judge who is overseeing your case will order child support, it’s best to seek clarification of state laws before heading to court, so that you know what to expect.
There are several misconceptions regarding child support laws in Missouri. For instance, many parents mistakenly believe that being unemployed negates the obligation to pay child support, which is not true. In fact, the government can garnish unemployment benefits to meet child support payments.
It’s not only one parent providing for children’s financial needs in a divorce
Another common misconception regarding Missouri child support laws is that only one parent is responsible for financial provisions. On the contrary, Missouri law specifically states that both parents are responsible for providing the financial needs of their children following a divorce. The court calculates food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, extracurricular activities, daycare fees and numerous other expenses in conjunction with each parent’s income to determine child support.
When devising a co-parenting plan, a set of parents might agree to have one parent pay for several recurring expenses while the other provides for separate financial needs. It’s best to consider non-recurring expenses, as well, such as birthday and holiday gifts or vacations.
Once the court issues a child support order, parents must adhere to its terms
If your financial circumstances change (perhaps because you receive a pay raise or lose your job, etc.,) you and your co-parent might agree that a change in child support paymentsis merited. However, if there’s an existing court order in place, neither of you are free to make any changes to it, unless and until you file a modification petition, and the court grants your request.
It is a misconception to think that, if the two of you agree to a change in child support, you can go ahead and implement the change. This is not so, and acting without the court’s permission can land you in a heap of legal trouble.
The law is on your side if your ex is not making child support payments
If the court has ordered your former spouse to pay child support, he or she must continue to submit payments on time, until the order ceases, such as if your children turn 18 or join the military. Unpaid child support is a serious matter — one that you can bring to the court’s attention.
A Missouri judge may decide to hold a parent in contempt of court for disregarding a child support order. You shouldn’t hesitate to be proactive to protect your children’s best interests.