About the Child Support System
When you’re a single dad, the child support system can feel confusing and unfair. It may feel like you’re being punished or penalized. Some dads can’t afford to pay their monthly child support. Sometimes arrears balances are so large that some men may never catch up.
Even if a Parent Paying Support (PPS) pays child support on time and in the full amount, the Parent Receiving Support (PRS) might still refuse to let PSS see their child. If there is an unfair refusal, there are court remedies for this. PPS might file a family access motion or a motion for contempt against PRS.
Even though we talk about child support and visitation a lot in the same conversations, it’s important to know the court system sees these as two separate issues.
Child Support is NOt...▼
It’s not a penalty you pay for being a father, nor is it punishment for leaving or divorcing your child’s mother. It’s not a tool to keep you down or poor. It’s not a rental payment you make so you can spend time with your children. It’s not alimony. It’s not intended to cover all the costs required to raise your children.
what Child support is supposed to be:▼
Child support is supposed to be a balanced assessment of how to share the costs of raising your children between you and your child’s mother. The formula for how that’s calculated differs based on individual circumstances, but in general it looks something like this:
Calculating Child Support
the income shares model ▼
This is the model used in Missouri. Authorities determine child support obligation based on the income of both parties.
First, the income of both parents is combined. The basic child support obligation is determined based on a statutory table or schedule. Next, other expenses are added to the total. The total is prorated between the parents based on their percentage of the combined income.
For instance, Parent Paying Support (PPS) makes $2,000 a month, Parent Receiving Support (PRS) makes $1,000 a month, and the child has $50 in medical bills each month. Determining child support would look like this:
- Basic child support obligation based on the statutory table = $500 a month, plus $50 in medical bills. $3,000 monthly combined income. PPS share of expenses is 66.66% and PRS share is 33.33%.
- $550 x 66.66% = PPS pays $366.30 in child support each month.
The percent of income model▼
In this model, authorities determine the income of the Parenting Paying Support (PPS) and use a statutory table to determine the child support obligation.
First, determine PPS's income, and multiply that by the percentage reflected in the statutory table. The percentage is based on the number of children you have. Then, the state adjusts the price based on other expenses, like medical bills.
For instance, Say PPS makes $2,000 a month. What Parent Receiving Support (PRS) makes doesn't matter here. Determining the child support payment would look like this:
- Basic child support obligation based on a statutory table—let's use 17% of income as an example. Multiply monthly income by 17%.
- $2000 x 17% = PPS pays $340 in child support each month.
Child Support Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we have a child support system at all?▼
There are a couple obvious reasons.
1—Some parents would likely not pay anything at all to take care of their children if they weren’t obligated to, so laws were implemented to require minimal responsibility.
2—Kids that have no support from their parents wind up becoming an expense to the state or other charities, and it is preferable that they are instead cared for by their parents.
What is child support supposed to cover? ▼
Child support is intended to cover the expense of providing a child with basic living necessities, including food, shelter, clothing, education, the cost of necessary medical treatment and reasonable recreation. Luxury items usually aren’t covered. It is not intended to cover the living expenses of the PRS.
How is child support calculated?▼
Several factors determine how much child support the non-custodial parent needs to pay, including where the child lives most of the time, the child’s age, cost of childcare, cost of health insurance, and the number of other child support payments. Courts use guidelines that factor how much money each parent makes. But even if you have a lot of bills, the amount of child support you are required to pay probably won’t change.
What if we share custody?▼
If a child spends 35% or more of their time with each parent, then it’s a presumption of shared physical custody. The courts take this into account when calculating how much child support someone must pay. If both parent incomes are about the same, and if the child spends about the same amount of time with each parent, probably neither of you will pay nor receive child support.
what is the difference between physical custody and legal custody?▼
These terms have important differences.
Physical custody describes where a child lives. Physical custody in the context of a court order describes a situation where a court has ordered a child live with a certain parent. A parent could have de facto physical custody by virtue of the child living with them, irrespective of a court order.
Legal custody, on the other hand, describes the right parents have to make long-term decisions (i.e. health, education, activities) for the child’s well-being on the child’s behalf. If you have one form of custody, it doesn’t necessarily mean you always have the other.
Unless a court order has specified otherwise, both parents share legal custody of their kids. In other words, if you do not have physical custody of your kids, and even if you don’t see your children, you may still have legal custody. Courts sometimes award joint physical and legal custody.
how is child support collected, and how is it received?▼
After establishment of a child support order, collections from PPS can take place in several ways, including auto-withdrawal from a bank account, self-pay via check or money order, and income withholding orders to the payor’s employer. All payments by default go through the Family Support Payment Center. In some cases that the PPS doesn’t pay child support willingly, the parent’s employer might deduct an amount from each paycheck and send it to a child welfare agency.
Likewise, PRS may receive payment in several ways, including direct deposit into a bank account, electronic payment card, or bank check.
can the child support amount be changed?▼
Yes, but generally there must be a good reason for it to be changed. Parents can seek a change in the amount if one or both their financial situations change significantly. You can file a motion to increase, decrease, suspend (for instance, if you were temporarily laid off) or terminate child support. You’ll be asked to present evidence regarding the requested adjustment.
In Missouri, you can request a modification through the Family Support Division every three years. Otherwise, motions to modify may be filed through the courts at any time, either pro se (when a person represents themselves) or with the help of an attorney. In Missouri, FSD will review a case for modification every three years from the last request. FSD will also review a case for modification even if it hasn’t yet been three years since the last review only if there has been a permanent change in income of at least 50%.
In general, if circumstances change you might consider exploring options for modification. But it’s important to know that just because you request a modification doesn’t mean the amount you owe will decrease. In fact, there are plenty of circumstances where your payment will increase!
One reason why some people might consider requesting a modification is if you make less money than you did previously. PPS or PRS may file a modification in the courts at any time so long as the change in income is 20% or greater.
Keep in mind: Child support never changes automatically. If the circumstances of either parent or their child(ren) change in a way that might affect child support, you’ll need to seek a change through a court order.
what if the kids live with me now?▼
If your children live with you, following voluntary relinquishment of custody to you by the person due support, then you might consider filing a motion to abate (stop) child support payments during the time period your children are living with you. You may also want to consider filing a motion to modify child support to end your child support obligation and/or establish an order for the person formerly receiving child support to now pay support to you for the children.
What if I have more than one kid/more than one case?▼
In Missouri, the court does not have to count additional children after an existing order. For instance, say you have one child with Mother A and have a child support case with them. Then, say you have two more children with Mother B. The court does not need to consider your second and third children in the amount of child support you are ordered to pay to Mother A, even if your second and third children are dependent on you.
It may be the case that you have a child support order with more than one child lumped together, especially if you had more than one child with the same partner. When the oldest of the children turns 18, the amount you owe in child support may not change. This is meant to account for the rising cost of living and inflation.
When does the child support order end?▼
It depends. Generally, you can expect to pay until your child turns 21 unless the child does not continue in their education. If a child dies or if a child successfully seeks emancipation before they turn 18, then the child support obligation would end. Rarely, a child may have a mental or physical issue that makes them dependent on parental support after 18.
what are arrears?▼
Arrears is another name for past due support, and it refers to child support payments that have been missed or skipped. If you skipped payments, you’re still legally obligated to pay the accumulated costs. Sometimes people with large amounts of past due support face consequences, like having their driver’s license revoked, tax refunds garnished, and in extreme cases, incarceration.
If i give money to the mother of my kids outside of DSS, does that still count? ▼
No. If you give money to someone—or buy them groceries, diapers, etc.—it is considered a gift. The other parent would need to sign an affidavit telling the court that they received the support payment directly from you in order for you to receive credit. It is very important to make your child support payments through family support division (FSD). Some payment options include:
Or make child support payments over the phone at 888-761-3665
Past due support (arrears) can be forgiven by the PRS, but it must be done by filing an affidavit through the court or FSD.
understanding your rights
You have the right to see your children.▼
You are entitled to visit your child even if you don’t pay. However, if you don’t pay child support, a judge can find you in contempt of court for disobeying its order, and as a result you might need to follow a court ordered payment plan, pay a fine, have tax refunds or paychecks garnished, have your license revoked, and as a last result, face incarceration. If a parent doesn’t pay, the other parent can file for a motion for contempt to make someone pay. Sometimes, failure to pay child support can bring about criminal charges. At this time in Missouri, the child support obligation does not stop during time periods a parent is incarcerated. PPS may request a modification if they are incarcerated for more than 180 days.
You have the right to have parenting plans and visitations enforced.▼
In divorce cases, it is mandatory that parents set up a parenting plan and visitation guidelines. This isn’t the case if you were never married to the mother of your child. In circumstances like this, you might need to work with your local court to establish a parenting plan/visitation.
You have the right to be involved in your child's education.▼
Unless there is a court order specifying otherwise, you have the same rights as your child(ren)’s other parent(s) to school information, including grade report cards, parent-teacher conferences, academic calendars and special events such as recitals or sports games. You have the right to be listed as a contact in your child’s school database.
You have a right to important medical information about your child.▼
Unless there is a court order specifying otherwise, you have the same rights as your child(ren)’s other parent(s) to medical information about your child.
Navigating the child support system
- Communicate — do not ignore letters of calls from child support agencies
- Always pay something — Even if it's a very minimal amount that you can pay, don't ever pay nothing.
- Utilize support agencies — There are often free or low-cost options that can help you resolve child support issues.
- Maintain records — When you make payments, make sure they can be validated.
- Establish paternity — If the child isn't yours, you don't have to pay child support! In most cases, the judge will allow you to have a paternity test if you ask for one. You might have to pay for the test, though.
Good Dads trusted Resources
We encourage you to get in contact with Good Dads case manager, Lisa Strader.