Child support is determined in Missouri by the Form 14. The Form 14 is primarily based on the gross income of the parties, along with various other factors including the visitation credit on line 11.
Prior to the recent amendment in the law, if you were a father paying child support, but who shared close to equal custody with the mother, you could get up to a thirty-four percent visitation credit on line 11. However, a judge only had to give a ten-percent visitation credit in most circumstances. This line 11 visitation credit is based upon how many overnights the non-custodial parent has with their child.
However, a new bill was passed in 2011 that directs the Missouri Supreme Court to amend the child support guidelines. According to the new law, parents who share equal or substantially equal time with their children “may” be entitled to an adjustment of up to fifty-percent of their child support obligation. In theory, this could have the effect of reducing a father’s child support obligation that has joint physical custody.
Child support orders are always modifiable until emancipation if there is a change of circumstances of a substantial and continuing nature. Thus, fathers may want to have their child support looked at by the court again if they have joint physical custody based on this new law to determine whether a fifty-percent visitation credit is obtainable.
The problem with the new law as written is that the statute, 452.340 RSMo, says “may” versus “shall” receive a fifty-percent credit. This means that a judge may not award a fifty-percent credit and could still opt for a lower credit.
For Missouri fathers who have joint physical custody, this new statute is largely positive and a move in the right direction. However, due to the non-mandatory language of the statute, this statute might only get the hopes up of some fathers because no judge under this statute has to give a fifty-percent credit.
Regardless, Missouri fathers who have joint physical custody may wish to have their child support orders reviewed by an attorney.