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  • May 2nd, 2024

    How to “Win” a Motion to Modify Child Support or Parenting Plan Case

    Child Custody, Child Support, Family Law, Modification

    Winning divorce modification cases

    As I stated in a previous post, there is no real way to “win” in a divorce or custody case, only mitigate the loss. 

    Motions to Modify, however, are not usually like the previous action, as what you are wanting is usually much more specific, and you now often have the evidence you need to show that the previous Order does not work. 

    You still likely will not get everything you want (if you are asking for several changes), but the Motion to Modify, if done correctly, will make things better for you and your children.

    A Motion to Modify requires that there be a showing of a material and continuing change in circumstances for either the parent that has physical custody or the minor child (in a custody case modification), or a showing that child support would be raised or lowered by 20% (in a child support modification). 

    “I just don’t like the previous Orders” does not cut it.

    Child support is crucial for ensuring the well-being of children after a separation or divorce. However, circumstances can change over time, making the initial child support order no longer fair or accurate. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be considering filing a motion to modify child support in Missouri. But how do you increase your chances of success?

    What is a child support modification?

    Child support is a court-ordered financial arrangement that ensures one parent contributes to the well-being of their child after a separation or divorce. However, life circumstances can evolve significantly over time.

    This can lead to a situation where the originally determined child support amount is no longer fair or accurate for either parent’s financial situation or the child’s current needs. In such scenarios, a legal process called child support modification allows parents to petition the court to adjust the existing child support order.

    What are the grounds for modifications to child support in Missouri?

    You cannot simply modify child support because you want to pay less. There are strict requirements that need to be met before an adjustment can be made that can be explained by an experienced child support lawyer in St. Louis.

    In Missouri, courts will only consider modifying child support if there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances since the original order was issued. This change must significantly impact the financial situation of either parent or the needs of the child.

    Here are some common examples of qualifying changes:

    • Involuntary Job Loss or Significant Income Reduction: If you have experienced a substantial and involuntary decrease in income, you may be eligible for a reduction in child support.
    • Increased Income of the Receiving Parent: If the parent receiving child support experiences a significant and sustained increase in income, the court may re-evaluate the support amount.
    • Changes in Child’s Needs: Increased expenses due to the child’s medical needs, extracurricular activities, or educational requirements could warrant a modification.
    • Change in Custody Arrangements: A significant shift in parenting time (visitation) might necessitate adjusting child support.

    Tips on being successful in your motion to modify

    To “win” your Motion to Modify, there are some things that you need to be prepared to do.  First and foremost, you must be able to show that you have a clear understanding of what the problem is, and have a solution for that problem. 

    Really look and see if you have a solution before spending thousands of dollars. 

    If you don’t have all of the answers, that is okay, but talk with a family law attorney and see if they might have a solution in mind. You also need to ensure that your side of the street is clean. 

    If a Motion to Modify is filed, a Counter-Motion to Modify will likely also be filed. 

    Common questions a divorce attorney will ask before your Motion to Modify child support or child custody

    • Have you been following the Orders?
    • Is there something that you need to worry about? 
    • What new circumstances should be included in your modification?

    Talk to your divorce modification attorney to see if they recommend filing the Motion to Modify, and be honest about things that might come back on you if a Counter-Motion to Modify is filed. 

    It is important to get guidance and find out if you may actually lose more than you stand to gain.  

    Winning a Parenting Plan Modification

    The most common Motion to Modify that we see is when one parent wants to change the parenting plan or the child support. 

    I will focus on the parenting plan (as that usually has an impact on child support modifications).  

    To get a Motion to Modify granted that changes the parenting plan, you need to show that something has changed for the child or the parent that has physical custody. 

    If you only have visitation, in theory, a change in circumstances is not grounds for a modification (though I have found that Judges often grant the Motions anyway, as a change affecting a parent often has some change on the child). 

    The change cannot be a temporary change, and it needs to be a somewhat substantial (often called “material”) change in the circumstances.  The proposed solution also needs to be found to be in the best interest of the minor children.  

    This could be something like a job transfer to another state, and a new parenting plan to account for the new schedule. 

    Or it could be that a parent continues to alienate the children from the other parent, which the Courts believe is not in the children’s best interest. 

    There are a number of reasons why you would want to modify your parenting plan or custody, and you need to talk to an experienced family law attorney to see if your reasons would likely sway the Judge.  

    Winning a Child Support Modification

    The other Motion to Modify that is often filed is to change the child support. 

    In Missouri, a temporary change to circumstances will not allow the Motion to Modify to be granted. 

    If you lost your job and anticipate getting a new one soon, you may want to consider holding off to see if this is worth that.  However, the Court can only go back and change the Ordered support amount to when the other party is served, so I would not wait too long. 

    This may also sound crazy, but if you are going to jail, you need to modify the child support ASAP.  I cannot tell you how many people call my office and are tens of thousands behind on child support after serving a jail or prison sentence.  

    You also need to be aware of the imputation of income, which is the Court finds that you are intentionally unemployed or underemployed, and uses the salary they think you are capable of making when calculating child support. 

    So, if you were fired due to misconduct (example: drinking on the job), or you quit your job without good reason, the Court will likely put in your former wage in the calculations on the Form 14 when calculating child support.

    The reality is that a Motion to Modify can occur for many reasons but go into it knowing that you may have a Motion filed against you and that you may lose more than you gain. 

    The best family law attorneys can help you determine the pros and cons and guide you through the process.  

    About Missouri’s child support modification process

    The process for modifying child support in Missouri typically involves the following steps:

    1. Filing a Motion: You or your attorney will file a formal motion with the court requesting a modification of child support.
    2. Serving the Other Parent: The other parent will be served with the motion and have an opportunity to respond.
    3. Discovery Phase (Optional): Both parties may exchange information and gather evidence to support their case.
    4. Hearing: A judge will review the evidence and arguments presented by both sides before issuing a decision.

    Tips to prepare for your child support modification request

    To win your motion, you need to present a compelling case that demonstrates a substantial change in circumstances. Here’s how to strengthen your position:

    Gather evidence to support your case

    Document your financial situation with pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements. If your income has decreased, gather proof of job loss or reduction in hours.

    Calculate support needs

    Use a Missouri child support calculator to estimate the appropriate child support amount based on current income and expenses.

    Consult with a local divorce attorney

    An experienced family law attorney can guide you through the legal process, advise you on evidence gathering, and represent you in court.

    The Saint Louis divorce attorneys at Haefner Law would love to hear from you. Contact Haefner Law Office at (314) 200-6101 and set up your free 30 minute phone consultation with a dedicated family law attorney to discuss your case, get some guidance, and see if we are the right fit for you.  It may just be the most important call you ever make.

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