On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Paternity/Child Support on Friday, August 8, 2014.
In Missouri when a couple have had children and later decide to part ways — through divorce, legal separation or otherwise — a court can become involved in establishing the arrangement by which either or both parents incur a continuing obligation to financially support their offspring through child support payments.
To avoid arbitrary results in determining how those payment obligations are arrived at, Missouri state law establishes extensive child support guidelines. The purpose of this post is to provide an overview of some of the considerations that these guidelines take into account.
As one may expect, the court takes into account the needs of children, and balances those against the ability of the parent or parents to meet those obligations. While no precise formula exists, the guidelines do establish several criteria, including:
- A child’s financial needs, and whether he or she has any financial resources;
- Likewise, the monetary needs and resources of the parents, including examination of their work-related costs for child care;
- A consideration of what a child’s standard of living would have been had the parents remained together;
- A child’s unique physical, emotional and educational needs; and
- Any child custody arrangements that have been made between the parents.
The overarching concern of the court in addressing these criteria is the welfare of the child. This will take priority over secondary concerns, such as behavior of a parent during the marriage that might have led to divorce, or whether the child support obligation may interfere with educational or other plans that a parent has for himself or herself. If necessary, child support payment obligations can also be made effective retroactive to the filing of a petition for divorce or separation.
The duration of child support obligations generally continues until a triggering event occurs that ends those obligations. These triggers can be based things like on the age of the child, or when he or she becomes self-supporting, or joins active duty military service.
As child support laws have developed over time, the child support guidelines have evolved to take into account many variables that may be encountered. This post cannot, therefore, comprehensively address all of the factors that a court must consider when it arrives at any child support obligations. Likewise, the reader should consider what is written here for general information only, and not as specific legal advice.