Parenting Plans are required in Missouri in cases of divorce, legal separation, and paternity judgments in order to ensure that minor, unemancipated children are adequately provided for. More often than not, the parenting plan will be formed under RSMo 452.310. The usual procedure is that two parties reach an agreement and the Court approves it, incorporating the agreement into its Judgment and Decree. However, agreements are not always reached; in such cases, the Court will enter an Order providing for how the children are to be handled.
The parenting plan is comprehensive. Weekly physical custody arrangements need to be articulated, and there needs to be specificity when determining who has custody during holidays. Additionally, educational choices need to be covered, health-care decisions, health insurance coverage, and — perhaps most importantly — child support needs to be agreed upon. In Missouri, Missouri Civil Procedure Form No. 14 is deemed to be the presumed child support amount. This presumption, though, can be mutually rebutted by the parties as unjust and inappropriate, who will then have to agree upon an alternate method of child support which the Court finds agreeable.
Because the Parenting Plan concerns minor children, the State and Court has a heightened interest in protecting any child’s welfare. As such, the final say is always going to be with the Court. Moreover, a Court order or approved Parenting Plan is subject to modification. Motions to modify child support and child custody can be filed by either party after a court order when there has been a substantial change in the circumstances. For support, a substantial change in the circumstances usually occurs when there is a drastic economic and financial change between the parties (a prima facie case is made when there is a 20% deviation between the past and current Form 14 amounts). For custody, a substantial change occurs when the best interests of the child requires that the physical/legal custody be altered.