Can My Child Support Be Modified?
Haefner Law Office, LLC is a family law firm in St. Louis offering help related to child custody modifications, as well as support modifications.
For Missouri state information on child support & child custody modifications click here.
Modifications in Missouri
Here is a secret: That final Judgment you got in the divorce or paternity case? It actually is not “final.” What worked at one point in time doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work forever. As our lives move forward, it is only logical that our needs and the needs of our children will as well.
One of the most common things we do at Haefner Law Office is Motions to Modify.
People lose jobs, children get older, and, on occasion, it is in the best interest of the child that they primarily reside with the other parent.
We basically see two different types of Modification proceedings: Child Custody and Support.
Child Custody Modification
This is about changing things regarding your children.
- Perhaps one parent is relocating far away.
- Or the child is adamant that they no longer wish to reside with the primary custodial parent.
- Or one parent is alienating the other parent to the point where the relationship between the other parent and the child is suffering.
- Or perhaps it is one of a million other scenarios in which the current parenting plan no longer makes sense.
This is when you need to consider modifying the custody terms of the original or previously modified agreement.
There are several factors to consider when deciding if the time is right to file a Motion to Modify.
The biggest question is this: Has there been a material change in circumstances?
If not, is there going to be (example: relocation in the near future)? That is the key question when filing the Motion to Modify.
In custody cases, you also need to see what is in the best interest of the minor child. Traditionally, having a strong relationship with both parents is seen as the best interest of the minor child and if someone is stopping that from happening, then perhaps a modification is in the child’s best interest.
With custody of children, there are too many things to list what would qualify as a material change in circumstances.
- age of children
- circumstances of the household
- ability of the parents to communicate
These are just some of the things that might be factored into material change of circumstances.
When it comes to child support, a material change in circumstances is any time child support would go up or down by 20% or more when the proper calculations are accounted for.
To get a proper calculation, you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney to see if you would qualify, as this can be complicated.
One of the factors to consider when calculating child support is the parenting time credit which ties directly into your parenting plan, so more often than not, child support is recalculated when you modify custody or the parenting plan.
At times, it will be necessary to modify the terms of your Order.
While the agreement may have been right at the time of your divorce, needs may have become different, your income situation may have changed, or perhaps your spouse has become more successful than they were at the time of the divorce. There are a number of factors which may contribute to the necessity of the modification of support.
Modifying your support obligation is one of the most confusing and, at times, frustrating areas of the law.
There are several factors to consider, but above all, the change in circumstances must be substantial and continuing, making the current support obligation unreasonable.
- For maintenance (formerly alimony), you need
- to prove there is a continuing change.
- For child support, you need to show that there is a continuing change in which there would be a 20% change in what you would be paying when all relevant factors are considered (example: if you are paying $500 per month in child support, your support obligation would have to go up or down by more than $100 for a modification).
Missouri uses what is called the Form 14 to calculate child support obligations. The Court will consider all relevant factors when determining child support, including the things listed in RSMo. 452.340 which is the statute used when determining the child support obligation.
(1) The financial needs and resources of the child;
(2) The financial resources and needs of the parents;
(3) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
(4) The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child’s educational needs;
(5) The child’s physical and legal custody arrangements, including the amount of time the child spends with each parent and the reasonable expenses associated with the custody or visitation arrangements; and
(6) The reasonable work-related child care expenses of each parent.
Some circumstances may qualify for you to have your child support obligations modified:
- Loss of employment
- Being forced to take another job because your vocation or industry has disappeared
- Your child(ren) begin living with you full time
- Your child becomes emancipated
- A change in your child’s medical or educational needs
There are some particular circumstances which will not qualify for the modification of child support.
This may include such circumstances as:
- Voluntarily leaving your current employment situation
- Voluntarily changing to a lower paying job
One thing that we see often is people failing to file the Motion to Modify quickly when something changes.
I understand that this is a difficult time and money is tight, but you need to get the Order changed before you are in a hole that is too deep to dig out of.
If there is a change of financial circumstances, you need to call an attorney right away. If nothing else, you need to get a Motion filed with the Court in hopes that you will be able to make the change in support obligation retroactive to the date of filing.
The basic rule is this: If you have had a major change of circumstances in your life, contact a family law attorney to see how it would impact your current Orders. You might be surprised how much you can accomplish when being proactive.
There is one extremely important thing you need to consider when thinking about a modification: It can only go back to when you file.
If your situation has changed, the Order needs to change as well and it needs to be filed as quickly as possible.
I would invite you to review the forms page of this website and fill out the Statement of Income and Expenses and the Statement of Property.
Both forms are required in any modification case and are extremely important, so fill them out to the best of your ability.
I would also invite you to download my e-book, Top 10 Tips When Going Through or Considering Divorce, as it contains information that is extremely relevant to a modification case.
At Haefner Law Office, we are extremely experienced in matters involving Modification. Having a knowledgeable, aggressive attorney helping you through this complicated process is necessary to ensure that you did everything you could.
Contact Haefner Law Office at (314) 200-6101 to help you through this difficult time. We hope to hear from you soon.