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Your Kansas City Child Support Case: The Basics

You love your Kansas City Royals, but unlike an afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, it looks like requesting child support is going to be a "royal" pain. With all the paperwork and procedures, where do you even begin? This article will give an overview of the process, as well as let you know what to expect as you go.

What is Child Support?

Missouri imposes a legal duty on both parents to support their child. The parent with physical custody of the child fulfills this duty by providing direct care and support. Often, the non-custodial parent is called upon by the court to fulfill this duty by providing financial support for the child's care through monthly contributions towards the child's living expenses (food, clothing, education, and medical expenses) -- called child support payments.

How Long Can I Receive Child Support?

Like most other states, Missouri requires parents to support their child until he or she turns 18 years old. Unlike most other states, however, Missouri may require parents to continue supporting a child past the age of 18 if he or she is enrolled in vocational school or college. Though this support obligation depends on the type of school and the child's course load, parents in these circumstances are usually required to continue financial support until the child graduates or turns 21 years old.

How Do I Request and Receive Child Support?

As a resident of Kansas City, you will need a child support order from either the court or the Missouri Family Support Division (FSD) to receive support payments. You may go through the court if you have already filed for divorce or legal separation, because your child support order will likely be considered part of the same case. If you are married, but not filing for divorce or legal separation, you should go through FSD to request a child support order. Since the support order is not part of a court proceeding, the court will not be involved in support issues.

If you are not married to the parent from whom you are requesting support, it is important to know you must establish paternity (legal fatherhood) before you can get a child support order. Establishing paternity ensures your child's legal rights, as well as your own rights as a parent. If you go directly to the court to establish paternity, you may request that the court order child support as part of the same case. Alternatively, you may apply to FSD for paternity establishment and the child support order.

How Much Child Support Can I Expect to Receive?

In Missouri, courts use several factors or guidelines when determining the amount of a child support award. These guidelines are combined into a formula that can be found on a special form known as Form 14. Courts use the Form 14 formula to determine a base amount of child support. However, if this amount would be unfair to the child or the parents, the court has discretion to increase or decrease the award in order to produce a more equitable (fair) result.

What Happens If My Ex Won't Pay?

If you have a child support order, but your ex won't make payments, you will need to either go through the court or FSD to enforce the support order. The court and FSD have several different methods of enforcement available. Perhaps the most efficient method of enforcement is wage withholding. If a parent is late in paying the equivalent of at least one month of support, his or her income may be automatically withheld. Because no notice is required to withhold this income, wage withholding is generally a fast and effective way to receive payment. Other methods the court or FSD may use include property liens, property attachment, and civil contempt.

What Happens If I Need More (or Less) Child Support?

If you currently have a support order in place, you may later find that you need to change the amount of your child support payments. To qualify for a modification, you must show the court or support services that there has been a substantial change in your circumstances making the current award insufficient or unfair. Typically, courts consider a substantial change to mean at least a twenty percent increase or decrease from the original award amount (using the Form 14 formula).

Get Professional Legal Help With Your Child Support Case

The paperwork and steps involved in requesting and receiving child support can be confusing. The outcome of a child support case will affect your financial life for years to come, regardless of whether you are claiming support or being asked to pay. Contact a qualified Missouri family law attorney in the Kansas City area today. 

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