Determination of child support in a divorce or separation case can be potentially contentious. The paying parent often feels as if they’re being forced to pay more than necessary, while the receiving parent may feel like they are unable to meet their children’s financial needs. Missouri law requires both parents to equally contribute to a child’s upbringing. When one parent has greater custody over their children, the other parent usually must pay child support. If you and your co-parent are dealing with custody and child support, it’s essential to understand how child support is calculated and enforced in Kansas City.

Determining Child Support

Child support is meant to provide children with the same support in both of the households that they live in. It’s also supposed to allow children to have a similar standard of living and financial support that they would have had if their parents had not separated. Generally, the parent with the least custody and parenting time is responsible for paying child support. When parents have equal parenting time, it’s possible that there will be no child support payments if each parent has a similar income. Child support payment amounts are determined based on:

  • The needs and interests of the child
  • The income and financial ability of each parent
  • Expenses for the child, including medical needs
  • How much custody each parent has

Child support payments are not reliant on the gender of either parent. Rather, they are the state’s way of making sure that both parents contribute equally to their children.

Petitioning for Child Support

To request child support during a custody, divorce, or separation case, one party must file a request with the court. This petition will include essential financial information and other documents. Then, the other parent will be served papers and summons for a court hearing date. Each parent can make arguments for how they believe that child support should be awarded. The court will then assign child support based on what it believes the child’s interests to be.

Child support payments last until a child turns 18 or graduates from high school. Payments extend until the child turns 21 if they enroll in a community college, vocational school, or university full-time.

Enforcing Child Support

When child support payments are court-ordered, they can also be court-enforced. If a parent has been ordered to pay child support payments and is failing that responsibility, the custodial parent can request the court to take action. This may include:

  • Wage Garnishment: The court commonly will order the paying parent’s employer to withhold an amount from their paycheck. This garnishment pays for child support.
  • Contempt of Court: The receiving parent can file for a motion of contempt of court if the paying parent continuously fails to make payments. Being found in contempt of court results in fines and even jail time.
  • License Suspension: If a parent is not making payments, the court can suspend their driver’s license and professional licenses until they do.
  • Asset Seizure: The court can seize assets like bank accounts or real estate if a parent is not providing support payments.

Modifying Child Support Payments

Child support payments should be fair for both parents. However, life circumstances change, and the initial orders may not always be appropriate. If either parent or their children have a significant change in circumstances, the court may grant a request for modification. A significant change may include:

  • Change in either parent’s income
  • Loss of employment for either parent
  • Change in the child’s financial needs

The court will determine if a modification is necessary based on the situation.

Informal Child Support Payments

Some parents may attempt to avoid the court process and make informal payments to support their children when they’re separated. However, this has several downsides. Court-ordered child support is calculated to ensure that it is not unfair to either parent and allows for modification. An informal agreement means the following:

  • A parent may be paying too much or not receiving enough to provide for their child’s needs.
  • Parents may make modifications that are too extreme when circumstances change.
  • There is no state system to help parents understand child support payments and taxes.
  • Parents are not held accountable for the payments they make.
  • The state can’t enforce an informal agreement, so either parent can change their mind about the money they are paying or receiving.

An attorney can help parents determine how to create a court-enforceable agreement that meets their needs.


Q: What Is the Average Amount of Child Support Per Child in Missouri?

A: The average child support payment depends on several factors. Child support determination depends on:

  • How much parenting time or overnights a child has with each parent
  • Each parent’s income
  • How many children who the parents had together that need care
  • The amount that each parent pays for childcare, including health insurance and healthcare

Q: Can Child Support Be Forgiven in Missouri?

A: Both parents have a financial obligation to support their children. A parent can’t waive their right to child support. If the court orders a parent to pay child support, that parent has to pay it. If you have been ordered to pay child support, but are unable to, you may need to file an appeal or a modification. This won’t necessarily forgive the payments, but it may lower them. Child support payments should not be putting you in financial hardship. If they are, an appeal may be needed to recalculate the payments. If your financial circumstances have changed, file for modification. An attorney can help you with this process.

Q: What Is the Minimum Child Support in Missouri?

A: Under Missouri’s Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations, the minimum payment as of 2022 is $60 per month. Each child support case is unique and will depend on the discretion and determination of the judge. However, many judges follow this schedule. For parents whose combined gross income is between $0 and $1,100, the minimum payment is $60 a month, regardless of the number of children. Minimum payments increase the higher parental gross income is.

Q: How Long Does a Parent Have to Pay Child Support in Missouri?

A: In many cases, child support payments end when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens later. Some exceptions include:

  • The child begins further full-time schooling following the year of graduation.
  • The child has medical needs and/or disabilities which require continued support.

The support may end when the child turns 21, or there may be specific provisions for when support is terminated.

Protect Your Family’s Interests

An attorney at Stange Law Firm can help advocate for you and your family’s needs concerning child support in court. Contact our team today.