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How is Child Support Determined?

Child support is very easy to calculate once child custody is set. Generally speaking, the more physical custody you have the more you can be entitled to in child support; likewise, less physical custody will often result in less child support. It is also important to dispel the misconception and stereotype that the husband only pays child support. This isn’t always the case. Indeed, the law is gender neutral on child-support, and it is not uncommon for a wife to pay the husband child support.

Undoubtedly, the most important factor in determining the support amount is the husband and wife’s gross income. As any good tax student can tell you, gross income includes any and all accessions to wealth (i.e., income before taxation). Using gross income, the Court and/or attorneys are required to make use of Missouri Civil Procedure Form Number 14 to determine the presumed amount of child support. In short, Form 14 is a worksheet promulgated by the Missouri Supreme Court which attempts to inject some certainty in support determination; specifically, the legally presumed amount of child support is computed upon taking into account various factors. While this sounds nice in theory, Form 14 is not a hard science. There is a lot of gray area and the “presumed” amount of child support can vary given the fluidity that is inherently present (e.g., there is a deduction for “other extraordinary costs” of the child(ren)).

Although Form 14 establishes something of a baseline, it is not always implemented. Missouri law specifically allows parties to rebut Form 14 as unjust and inappropriate, thereby consensually petitioning the Court to order some alternate form of Child Support than the Form 14 amount. However, given the State’s interest in protecting the welfare of children, the Court will have to sign off on any such agreement. From my experience, a Court will not inquire or question reasonable agreements. So long as the parties have reached the agreement in good faith and set aside adequate funds for their children (relative to their gross income), a Court will be satisfied.

Thus, although child support is guided by Form 14, it is not always set in stone by Form 14. In either case, though, the advocacy of your attorney and how you plead your case to the Court and/or other party will be more important.

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