Jonathan Marks, STL Moms: Changes to Missouri’s Child Support Calculation

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Margie Ellisor: If you are a Missouri parent who is divorced, you are likely familiar with the Form 14. It is what the state uses to calculate a parent’s child support obligation. Attorney Jonathan Marks with the Marks Law firm is here this morning with some changes to the Form 14, good morning to you.

Jonathan Marks: Good morning, Margie.

ME: So, first off, how does the state of Missouri decide child support?

JM: So unlike other states that just take a net percentage of the paying  parent’s income, Missouri uses what’s called an Income Share and puts it on a Form 14, so we’re looking at both parents’ incomes, combining it together, and then using each parent’s percentage of that gross to determine what their percentage or child support amount should be.

ME: Okay so there’s now some changes coming to this and the biggest, most significant is the visitation, right?

JM: Yeah, so there’s a visitation credit at the bottom of the chart, that after you’ve taken into consideration, you know, health insurance costs, childcare costs, and other deductions, the major deduction that somebody would see at the bottom of the chart is on this visitation credit, which really premised upon how many overnights does a paying parent have with their child or children, and they get a deduction for that percentage of overnights that they have. In the past, the old chart used to use, you know, a formula where certain overnights would result in a 6%, a 9%, 10%, and max out at 34% as a visitation credit, but there was a lot of discretion that was given from 10%, meaning over 109 overnights with your child, all the way up to 34% which would be a true split 50/50 schedule, and then we went to a 50% language in there, but it was even more discretionary. So, a lot of confusion, and then the legislature determined to assign a committee of lawyers to get together and try to fix this problem and they came up with a new theory that’s now a part of this chart.

ME: So, what is that?

JM: So, now what they have is there’s actually a set percentage that is used for the exact number of overnights, and depending on whether you have 110, 125, whatever it may be, there is now a set percentage that is used that will take you up to that 34% ratio. So there’s no longer that huge discretion that’s allowed for a court that goes anywhere from 10% to 34%, or even in theory 50%. Now we know if it’s a certain number of overnights, it could be 25%, 26%, or anywhere up to that 34 percentile.

ME: So how do they come to 34%?

JM: So, it’s somewhat complicated, there’s a lot of terminology in these rules that talks about what fixed and variable costs are, but, you know, to those of us who are just trying to explain it to our clients, the easiest way to look at it is there’s one major fixed cost that happens between both parents, and that is they both have to have somewhere to live and somewhere to have their children spend the night. So as a result of it, that’s a duplicated cost in each household and the committee came up with the idea that that duplicated cost is worth about 32% of the value of child support. So when you take that 32% out, there’s 68% left for each parent, and you have a true 50/50 schedule, divide it in half and that’s where the 34% ratio comes from.

ME: Could you still get 50% today?

JM: So the answer is yes, BUT.

ME: Okay…

JM: So, it is written in the statute you have the ability, or in the rule, the ability to get up to 50% ratio, but you’re going to have to explain to a court why your costs are different, that the 34% doesn’t work. And here again, you know, the committee did a good job of really using these terms expenditures, and figuring out, you know, what’s duplicated and what’s special. Here, the most complicated one is clothing. I mean, you know, how many times a parent sat there in separate households and argued “Where is the clothing?” So basically, what the committee said is that normally one parent is spending more of the money on the clothing that is going back from house to house, and as such, that is why, you know, the 50% doesn’t work, because that little bit of difference between the two  is used usually for one parent to buy the majority of the clothing for the children.

ME: Okay. Jonathan Marks, thank you so much, we appreciate it! For more information on the changes to Form 14, I’m going to let him explain it to you at the Marks Law Firm STL Moms tab, we’ll link you.

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