When parents separate, providing for the emotional, educational and financial future of shared children is essential. During the divorce process, the court attempts to ensure that each parent contributes to the ongoing needs of children by establishing support payments based on each former spouse’s financial circumstances and the needs of the child or children.
However, the circumstances of either parent may change over time, as may the needs of mutual children. In Missouri, divorced partners may apply for a modification to a child support order when the original order no longer reflects financial realities.
1. When is it appropriate to seek a child support modification?
Under Missouri law, divorced parents may seek a support modification if there has been a “substantial and ongoing” change in either former partner’s income or expenses related to child care. In general, the state considers a change substantial when it would alter the original support arrangement by roughly 20%.
2. What are common reasons for changing a child support agreement?
Separated parents may choose to pursue support modifications when either former spouse experiences a significant increase or decrease in income.
For instance, a parent making support payments may experience a sudden job loss and request a lower monthly amount. On the other hand, a parent receiving payments may request a higher support amount if the other spouse gets a significant raise.
A parent who is the primary caregiver for a child may also request higher support payments if a child’s medical or educational needs significantly exceed the original award amount.
3. Does a child support modification mean going to court?
Changing the terms of a child support agreement requires court approval to be legally enforceable. However, parents who can agree to support modifications may do so without going to court so long as the new terms of the agreement meet certain strict legal standards that serve the best interests of the child.