This is a very common question presented to Missouri family law practitioners. Most parties either paying or receiving child support understand that the amount of money in their court order can be modified or changed by an order of their family court judge. But, in order for a family law practitioner to be able to properly advise his client on whether a child support award can be either raised or lowered, that attorney must have access very specific financial information.
As outlined in a previous blog on this subject, a person's presumed amount of child support in Missouri is determined by applying specific financial factors to a formula determined by Missouri Supreme Court Rules. This formula is commonly referred to as a Form 14 calculation. When there are substantial and continuing changes to the financial factors originally used to determine your existing child support amount, a modification of your child support amount may be proper.
Substantial And Continuing Change:
Completing a new Form 14 calculation based upon current circumstances is a typical place where attorney's start in making a determination if the child support amount may be subject to modification. In order to do this it is critical that accurate information be available on each parent's gross monthly income, the cost of health insurance, the cost of day care and the number of overnights actually being exercised by the paying parent along with other relevant factors used in this calculation. A prima facie case for a modification of child support is made when there is a 20% change, through a Form 14 recalculation, from the existing child support amount. The likelihood of success in modifying a child support award greatly increases when the new amount varies at least 20% from the existing order child support amount. This does not necessarily mean that your family law judge will not modify the child support award if the change is less than 20%. However as a general rule, the likelihood of success in attempts to modify your child support amount certainly decreases as the percentage change decreases below 20%.
But, even if a recalculation results in at least a 20% change from the current child support amount, your family law judge will want to know if the substantial change that resulted in this new amount is a continuing change. For example if the primary reason for a change in the child support amount drop in income of one of the parents, there must be evidence that drop will be in existence for the foreseeable future. If the court believes that drop is likely to be only temporary, this decreases the likelihood that a modification will be granted. Was the drop in income the result of health issues of one of the litigants that was only temporary? Or, was there only a temporary change in the employment status of the requesting party? The answer to these questions or questions like them will be vital in determining if a change in the child support amount will be made by the court.
Likewise if the changes are clearly of a continuing nature, such as promotion or a job change which carries a significant increase in income or the expiration of the use/cost of daycare which was used in the original calculation of child support, efforts to modify the child support amount are much more likely to succeed.
When A Form 14 Calculation Was Not Used in Determining The Existing Oder:
If you did not strictly follow the child support guidelines in establishing your current child support and the application of the Form 14 was found to be "unjust and inappropriate", the requirement that there be a change in circumstances of the parities will often be more closely scrutinized. It is entirely possible that a 20% variation in the presumed child support amount may have existed at the time of the establishment of the existing order. In this case, your ex-spouse will certainly object to your efforts to change the child support amount simply upon a subsequent showing that the child support calculations show a 20% variation. In these cases, it will be very incumbent upon you to prove what substantial financial circumstances have changed and that they are continuing in nature. Visit our blog again soon for a more detailed discussion of this topic.
If you are faced with or are considering a child support modification, it is important that you consult with an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with what your judge will consider to be a substantial and continuing change in circumstances as well as how your particular judge is likely use the Form 14 calculation in making his determination.
Contact our office today for a consultation about your Missouri Family Law Matter.