Child Support Laws in Missouri

by Abby Lane
Noncustodial parents owe a duty to financially support their children

Noncustodial parents owe a duty to financially support their children

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Children in Missouri are entitled to financial support from both parents even if the parents are divorced or were never married. In Missouri, parents who do not have full physical custody of their children will generally owe some child support to the custodial parent — custody and child support go hand in hand. It is important to know and understand exactly the terms of your child support order because failure to comply can result in stiff penalties, including jail time for contempt of court.

Court or Administrative Order

In Missouri, a parent does not legally owe child support, nor is the other parent entitled to receive child support, without an order issued by a court or administrative agency. Child support orders in Missouri are generally issued as part of divorce or separation cases, but support can also be issued if the state sues the noncustodial parent for child support on behalf of the custodial parent. In cases where the parents of the child were never married, the court case where child support is sought is called a paternity action. In Missouri, the Social Services Family Support Division – Child Support Enforcement, or FSD-CSE, also has the power to issue child support orders.

Factors to Consider

In Missouri, the court or the FSD-CSE will consider a number of factors in determining the child support award. These include, but are not limited to: the financial needs and resources of the child; the financial needs and resources of the parents; the standard of living the child is accustomed to; the particular physical custody arrangement; and the custodial parents work-related child care expenses.

Temporary Child Support

Even if your divorce is not final, if you and the child's other parent are not residing together, and you are caring for the children 50 percent or more of the time, you may be entitled to temporary child support from the other parent under Missouri law. Child support orders that last until the end of the divorce proceedings are called temporary orders, and you or your lawyer can ask the judge for a temporary order any time after your divorce complaint or petition is filed.

Change or Termination

Only the court or the FSD-CSE can terminate or modify a lawful child support order. This means that even if you and your child’s other parent come to an agreement regarding child support that is different from the existing order, you cannot change the child support terms without the approval of the court or FSD-CSE. To legally change an existing child support order you must petition the court that initially issued the, or formally request a change from the FSD-CSE.

Visitation

In general, visitation will not affect your child support award in Missouri. For example, a parent who fails to exercise visitation with his or her child will not be ordered to pay more child support. Conversely, a parent who is behind on child support payments generally cannot be denied visitation with his or her child by the custodial parent solely because the parent is delinquent on child support payments.

Obligation

In Missouri, the child support order generally does not terminate until the child is 18 to 22 years old, depending on whether the child attends a school of higher education. A child support obligation may also expire when the child gets married, becomes self-supporting or joins the armed forces.