One of the questions I get almost every day is “how much am I going to be getting/paying in child support?”
In Missouri, child support is calculated by what is called the Form 14. It has several factors that are accounted for, and it helps to have an idea of the following information when calculating child support:
- How much do you make, or are you capable of making (based on history of employment)?
- How much does the other parent make or is capable of making (based on history of employment)?
- Do you have any other children? Are you paying or receiving support in another case?
- Is maintenance being paid in this case?
- Are there daycare expenses that you want to include in the calculation?
- What is the cost of insurance for just the children?
- Are there private school costs, or other costs, you want included in the calculations?
- How many nights per year is the paying parent going to have the child pursuant to the parenting plan?
- What about tax exemptions?
Note that just because you have 50/50 custody does not mean that you are not going to have to pay child support. Most of the cases when there is a 50/50 custody plan, the parent who makes less money gets child support from the other parent. Because most cases include child support, let’s break down each of these variables.
How much do you make?
This should be pretty easy. Look at your last pay stub and you can see what you are making this year, and can usually come pretty darn close to what your income is going to be this year if you are not already a salaried employee. When it comes to bonuses, we look at how often you have gotten them in the past and if you can count on it in the future. If you received $5,000 in bonuses above your base pay for the last three years, odds are the Court is going to say you are going to be making that in the foreseeable future. Sometimes we do a three to five year average to see what you can expect as your bonuses for Form 14 purposes. Bonuses can also include a car allowance or something like that, which can be added to your income.
If you have your own company and filter a lot of your expenses through the business, expect that you are going to have to account for that when we are running the Form 14.
If you recently became unemployed, we need to look at the reason for this. If you quit, the Court will likely say you are capable of making what you were making at the time you quit. If you were fired, we need to know why. If it was because you were always late or failed your drug test, you will likely get hit with what you were making, otherwise known as imputation of income. If your company went out of business and you cannot find similar work despite your best efforts, then you might be imputed at a lower amount than what you were making before. In most situations, however, you will not be able to say you are not capable of making minimum wage.
How much does the other parent make?
Good for the goose, good for the gander. Almost everything I just said about your income will apply to the other parent. Be aware, however, that sometimes you do not want them to impute income, because when we say that X is capable of making minimum wage, we also need to find out what the daycare expenses will be and include them. If you are going to give them a fictional job, you need to include the fictional expenses that go along with that. This is something you might want to discuss with your attorney to see how best to proceed.
Are there any other children you or the other parent have custody of? Are you receiving or paying support from another case?
If you have a child from a previous relationship, that gets factored in, as does any Court Ordered support paid or received for that child. The same goes for maintenance. The key here is what is actually Court Ordered. If there is no formal Order, then it is not included in Form 14 calculations.
Is Maintenance being paid in this case?
This is a big question and there are no easy answers unless everyone agrees that maintenance is not necessary for either party. However, if maintenance is paid or received, it does affect the calculations.
Are there daycare expenses you want to include in the child support calculations?
This is a question you really need to think about. My preference is that each party pays a percentage of the daycare expenses, as they will eventually go down or end, and if it is Ordered to be paid via the Form 14 calculations, then you might be setting yourself up for a Motion to Modify down the line, which will cost additional time and money. However, if the other parent is unreliable in paying their fair share of the daycare expenses, then it is best to include it in the Form 14 calculations. It is better to do a Motion to Modify than have to find a new daycare due to your ex not paying their fair share, and a Motion for Contempt could take months (or longer, if convoluted with other issues).
What is the cost for the children’s health, dental, and vision insurance?
Here is how you find this out: go ask your HR department for a breakdown of your benefits package. The amount you are paying for insurance for the child or children is the difference between what you would have to pay for yourself and what you have to pay for yourself and child(ren). If multiple children are involved and not all are with the same person, we generally divide that by how many kids are covered. So, for example, say you pay $200 per month for insurance for you and your child. You check with your HR department and find that you would only be paying $70 per month to insure just yourself. The cost for the child’s insurance is $130 per month.
Are there private school costs, or other set costs, you want included in the calculations?
This, like daycare, is usually better handled outside of the calculation if you trust the other parent to pay their fair share. If, however, you know that you are going to have to pay it because the other parent is unreliable, then you might want to include it in the child support calculations. This would need to be an expenses that is generally reoccurring and has a fixed amount, such as private school tuition or the average cost of specialized care for a special needs child.
How many nights per year is the paying parent going to have the child pursuant to the parenting plan?
This is often referred to as the Parenting Time Credit, or the Line 11 Credit, and is one of the most misunderstood and misused factors when calculating child support. Just because you have a 50/50 custody plan does not mean you are not going to have to pay child support.
If parents are doing a 50/50 plan with the children, it used to be the maximum line 11 credit would be 34%. However, a few years ago, the Missouri legislator said it could go up to 50%. In most Missouri metro areas, the Courts are still limiting the Parenting Time Credit to 34%, though I have heard that some counties are actually doing the 50% credit when you can show that everyone is actually paying for half of the expenses for the children.
This does not mean that you are paying 34% or 50% less than what you would be in support, rather you are paying 34% or 50% less than the TOTAL amount that the support should be. This can dramatically change what a parent should be paying in child support, and often times has a parent who really doesn’t want custody fighting for 50/50 just to get the reduction.
Note, however, that the other parent needs to be making a minimum amount in order for this credit to be applied, so be careful what you wish for. If your ex is imputed an minimum wage and you are fighting for 50/50 custody because you think you will pay less in child support, you might just get the child half of the time and still be paying the full amount of child support.
If you are doing every other weekend and a night per week, you will probably get at 10% parenting time credit, and if you are doing just every other weekend, you will probably get a 6% credit. The percentage is based on the amount of overnights, and you should check with an attorney if this is a major concern.
What about tax exemptions?
When the calculator was being designed, it was assumed that the parent who receives child support is going to be taking the tax exemption. That is not to say that the parties cannot agree to alternate it, or allow the other parent to take it, but usually that is something that needs to be bargained for. However, be aware that child support is modifiable whereas property settlement is not, so be careful in your negotiations and be mindful of what you are giving up. As of right now, the tax laws are changing starting in the 2019 tax year, so it is best to ask an accountant if this is a fight worth having.
If you have further questions regarding child support and would like to speak to an attorney regarding your situation, we would love to hear from you. Please give us a call at (314) 200-6101 or fill out this form to schedule a thirty minute free phone consultation with one of our attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you!