Parents have a dual legal obligation to provide ongoing financial support to help cover the costs of raising their child. In Missouri, when one parent has primary custody of the child, the other parent may be ordered to provide for the child through child support payments. Child support is ordered based on the financial situation of the parents and child at a specific time. However, the financial situation of a parent may change significantly, which may be enough to modify the amount of monthly child support.
If you have any questions about how a change in income will impact child support orders for your child, with an increase or decrease in support, contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm today.
Modifying a Child Support Order
After three years, either parent may request the Family Support Division (FSD) to review a child support order. The FSD may review the order based on any changes, including changes in custody, the child's educational and medical needs, number of children each parent has, and the financial needs and resources of the child and each parent.
Alternatively, either party can request a modification of the child support order based on a “showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unreasonable.” The court may determine whether the circumstances are significant enough to justify a change in child support obligations, or if there is a 20% difference in the presumed child support amount because of the change in circumstances.
Significant Drop in Income or Ability to Pay
In Missouri, the courts calculate child support based on a formula using a number of financial factors, including:
- Salary and income,
- Veterans' disability benefits,
- Severance pay,
- Retirement benefits,
- Maintenance (alimony) either paid or received,
- Wages and commissions,
- Social security benefits,
- Unemployment compensation,
- Partnership distributions, and
- Military allowances for subsistence and quarters.
For most parents, the primary source of income is salary. However, when the parent has a significant change in fortune, including losing their job or suffering a serious medical injury, their financial situation can change overnight. Unfortunately, child support obligations do not change automatically based on the supporting parent's ability to pay. Instead, the supporting parent needs to formally request a modification to the child support order through the courts.
A demotion or new job that has a slightly reduced salary may not be enough for the court to modify a child support order. Losing a job that provides a significant severance package may also not be enough to change a support order. However, the loss of a job and trouble finding a job with an equivalent salary is generally a significant enough change in circumstances that the court may modify a child support order based on the new information.
Other Parent Has a New Job Which Pays a Lot More
Similarly, a new job or new career of the supporting parent may justify modifying the child support order to increase the amount paid for the child. Regular and modest annual raises or bonuses may not be enough to constitute a significant change in circumstances or financial situation. However, a significant salary increase or promotion may push the supporting parent's income high enough to qualify for a modification of child support.
A former spouse or the child's parent may not want to volunteer information that he or she got a raise or was promoted with a higher salary. If you suspect the supporting parent had a significant change in financial situation, contact your Missouri family law attorney about your options. Your lawyer can investigate the other parent's financial situation and help you determine whether you can modify the child support orders through the courts.
Child Support After Bankruptcy
While many debts can be discharged in bankruptcy, child support will generally not be discharged after filing for bankruptcy. After bankruptcy, past child support debts and continuing child support obligations will follow the individual. The custodial parent can still seek to enforce child support from the bankrupt parent.
Bankruptcy may represent a significant enough change in circumstances to warrant a change in child support obligations but the parent must petition the court to modify child support. If the court modifies the child support order, it will generally not apply retroactively and the changes will only affect future child support payments.
Child Support Modification Attorney
If you have any questions about changes in your financial situation or the other parent's financial situation to justify a post-decree modification for child support, talk to your Missouri family lawyer. Your attorney can advise you on the best option for your situation to protect your rights and provide for your children. Contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm in Raymore online or by calling (816) 331-9968.