Creve Coeur & O’Fallon, MO Child and Spousal Support Attorneys
Issues relating to financial support of children or a spouse tend to become heated as the emotions of dissolving a relationship spill over into what should be a balance between reasonable needs and ability to pay. But, as with so many areas in family law, support issues are not so mechanical or straightforward.
Parents have a legal obligation to support their children. In Missouri, the state Supreme Court has devoted many hours to structuring child support based upon the combined incomes of the parties and the associated household expenses based on the income level and the number of children. The court must complete what is called a Form 14, a worksheet that takes the gross monthly incomes of each parent to arrive at a presumed child support amount. The court uses the relative incomes of the parties to determine who shall pay support to the other parent and in what share. The court will also make adjustments for health insurance, child care, and visitation credits before reaching a final support amount. If the court feels the amount is inappropriate, it may depart from the presumed child support amount, but it must state its reasons for doing so in the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage.
While child support may seem somewhat mechanical, determining the numbers that go into the chart can be challenging, especially if one parent is self-employed or has been unemployed and the court must impute income to that parent because both parents have a duty to become gainfully employed and provide support for the minor child. Also, parties may disagree about the reasonable amount of child care or health care expense. In all disputed cases, parties will need to introduce evidence to support their claims regarding income and the child care and health care expenses.
In Missouri, each spouse is expected to take all reasonable steps to secure adequate employment and become or remain self-sufficient. However, in some marriages, given the disparity of incomes or the absence of one spouse from the workforce for a lengthy period of time, one spouse may not be self-sufficient. If the court finds that one spouse lacks adequate property to support his or her reasonable needs, and is unable to support oneself through appropriate employment, the court may award spousal support, also called maintenance, to that spouse. In considering the amount and the duration of the award, the court must consider the financial resources of each party; the time necessary to acquire sufficient training or education to obtain appropriate employment; the comparative earning capacity of each spouse; the standard of living established during the marriage; the obligations and assets of each party; the duration of the marriage; the age and physical and emotional condition of the party seeking maintenance; the ability of the spouse who would pay maintenance to do so and meet his or her own obligations; and the conduct of the parties during the marriage.
Maintenance awards may be modifiable or not modifiable. If modifiable, a party may in the future return to court and ask that the amount be reduced or the obligation terminated because, for example, the party receiving maintenance no longer needs the additional support or the party paying maintenance can no longer afford to pay the support.
Maintenance can be very challenging because of the variety of factors, and each marriage is unique. The law favors self-sufficiency, so the party seeking maintenance has to prove real need. Also, the law will not allow a party to remain unemployed or underemployed, nor will it unduly burden the other party with an amount it deems unreasonable.
Getting Help in Child and Spousal Support
As you can see from the issues to resolve, the process is not just a short set of simple, self-executing rules, but involves many complex and often difficult questions of proof. Only a skilled and experienced attorney can properly advise you as to your rights with regard to custody, property and support, and protect those rights in a legal proceeding
At The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C, we have over fifty years of combined experience handling family law matters. We help individuals understand their rights with regard to all issues, including child support and spousal support. We do all required discovery, draft marital settlement agreements and try your case before the judge if we cannot reach a settlement. We have handled hundreds of trials before family court judges; if you choose The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C., you will have the benefit of a family law attorney unafraid to go to court, advocate on your behalf and fully present your case.
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Time to Act
Time is of the essence. As soon as you select The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. to represent you, we will immediately put our considerable experience and resources to work on your case. The sooner we can review the necessary information, the sooner we can formulate a strategy for your unique circumstances, helping to ensure the best possible outcome.