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Pro Bono Attorneys Deskbook
Child Support Basics --
The Administrative Process

 

If you are approached by a pro bono client for assistance with child support, you may want to first consider utilizing the administrative process provided by the state, as Missouri offers a free service to assist in the establishment, modification, and enforcement of child support. This process is available to all residents of Missouri, any non-resident who has a Missouri child support order, or any non-resident who is seeking assistance in enforcing an out-of-state child support order against a Missouri resident. These services are provided by the Missouri Family Support Division (FSD), and each county has a representative office. Here is a brief explanation of the services that are provided:

 

How does the application proceed?

 

If a custodial parent, a parent with whom the child resides the majority of the time, wishes to seek a child support obligation from the non-custodial parent, he or she can contact the local FSD office in the county in which the custodial parent and the child reside and request an application to establish a child support order. The local county office contacts can be located at the Missouri Child Support County Offices website. The Family Support Division can also assist in locating a missing parent and establishing paternity. The FSD can even arrange for genetic testing if the father is unconfirmed. If the child/ren receives public assistance, including Medicaid health insurance, then the FSD will automatically establish a child support and medical support order.

 

The custodial parent will be asked to provide the following information:

  1. Name and information regarding the non-custodial parent.

  2. Child/ren names, dates of birth, social security numbers.

  3. Proof of paternity. Examples: Marriage, paternity affidavit (typically signed at hospital), DNA test results, etc., including any legal documentation.

  4. Additional children living in your home. Additional child support orders.

  5. Employment and/or financial information.

  6. Other pertinent information.

Once this information is provided to the FSD, they will calculate a presumed amount of child support using Missouri Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, also referred to as the Form 14, and provide this information to the non-custodial parent. If the non-custodial parent disagrees with the presumed amount of child support, he or she may request an administrative hearing on the matter. Similarly, if the custodial parent disagrees with the presumed amount, he or she can also request an administrative hearing. The hearing must be requested within thirty days of receiving the notice, or the right to a hearing is considered waived. Hearings are held by the Division of Legal Services, Administrative Hearings Unit, and typically are scheduled two to three months from the time the hearing is requested. The matter will then be set for hearing, and both parties will be provided notice. At the hearing, the hearing officer will take information from the parties, make a calculation using Form 14, and provide a written decision. Either party does have the right to appeal the hearing officerís decision. For further information regarding the use of the Form 14, please review the Form 14 Worksheet and Directions, Comments for Use and Examples to Completion of Form 14 Assumptions.

 

The following are some considerations that the hearing officer may take into account in his or her decision:

  1. Current employment and previous employment history.
     

  2. Unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits, Veteranís benefits; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are precluded by FORM 14 guidelines.
     

  3. Disability, felony convictions, etc. In many situations, the hearing officer can impute wages even if the person is NOT currently working. This is typically minimum wage, but can be commensurate with prior work experience.
     

  4. Additional children in the home, alimony payments, or additional child support obligations.
     

  5. Health insurance costs provided for children.
     

  6. Visitation time with the children.

The hearing officer does not typically consider information regarding mortgages, rent, car payments, debts, etc.

 

How is a child support order modified?

 

After three years, either party may request that the FSD review a child support order, whether it is was originally a judicial order or an administrative order. However, either party can request a review for modification prior to that time if the party can show a substantial and ongoing change in circumstances that would justify a modification of the order. Examples of such circumstances include a 20% or more change in income, disability, changes in childís needs (such as medical condition), or change in visitation or custody of child. In order for a party to request a modification of his or her child support, he or she should write a letter that includes the following information:

  1. Custodial parentís name, the other parentís name, and the child/ren names.
     

  2. Case number or IV-D number, which is the identifying number given to a case by the FSD. If you cannot locate this number, you may include your social security number.
     

  3. Reason for modification. Examples: Unemployed, change in income, fewer hours at work, childís needs have changed, etc.
     

  4. Provide a valid phone number and address.
     

  5. Sign and print name.
     

  6. Date of request.

This letter should be mailed or faxed to the FSD office in the Missouri county in which the original order was decreed or registered. Again, the local office can be found at the Missouri Child Support County Offices website.

 

Once the FSD receives the request, they will review the case and determine if a modification is appropriate. If so, they will notify both parties of the new presumed child support amount, and both parties will have the opportunity to request an administrative hearing. This procedure is similar to the one followed in the establishment of a child support order. The hearing must be requested within thirty days of receiving the notice, or the right to a hearing is considered waived. Hearings are held by the Division of Legal Services, Administrative Hearings Unit, and typically are scheduled two to three months from the time the hearing is requested.

 

What can the FSD do to enforce a child support order?

 

The FSD has the authority to enforce both Missouri child support orders and out-of-state orders against a non-custodial Missouri resident. If FSD records indicate that the non-custodial parent has not paid the entire child support obligation, then the FSD can take such enforcement actions as statutorily permitted. Each action has a statutory requirement of the amount that the non-custodial parent must owe before the FSD can proceed. The FSD can take such enforcement actions as the following:

  1. Income withholding (wages, unemployment benefits, workerís compensation benefits, etc.) (Section 454-505(2) RSMo (Cum. Supp. 2011))
     

  2. State and federal tax refund interceptions (45 CFR 303.72 (a)(2))
     

  3. Credit bureau referrals (13 CSR 30-6.010)
     

  4. Financial liens (Section 454-507 RSMo (Cum. Supp. 2011))
     

  5. Lottery winning interceptions (Section 313-321 RSMo (Cum. Supp. 2011))
     

  6. License suspension (drivers, professional, hunting/fishing, etc.) (Section 454.1003 RSMo (Cum. Supp. 2011))

When a non-custodial parent is notified of such an enforcement action, he or she may request an administrative hearing on the matter. The hearing must be requested within thirty days of receiving the notice, or the right to a hearing is considered waived. Hearings are held by the Division of Legal Services, Administrative Hearings Unit, and typically are scheduled two to three months from the time the hearing is requested. At the hearing, the party will need to demonstrate that he or she is not the party obligated to pay the child support order or that he or she does not owe the statutorily defined amount of past due child support. This may be shown by demonstrating that he or she has made the payments directly to the custodial parent or has made the payments in some other manner, or that he or she is entitled to an abatement of the child support obligation (See Abatement Section below).

 

An administrative hearing will be then held and the hearing officer will make a written determination of whether the FSD had the authority to take the enforcement action against the party. The hearing officer may also recalculate the amount of past due child support and provide an abatement credit when appropriate.

 

The Missouri Child Support Enforcement Call Center at 866-313-9960 can always be contacted for further guidance and assistance.

 

Can a child support order be abated?

 

A non-custodial parent may request an abatement of his or her child support obligation for the following two reasons:

  1. The child or children of the order resided in the non-custodial parentís care for a time greater than thirty days without any overnight visitations with the custodial parent.
     

  2. The child of the order did not provide college transcripts as required by statute.

Visitation Abatement (452.340.2 RSMo (Cum. Supp. 2011))

 

If the child or children of the order resided in the non-custodial parentís care for a time greater than thirty days without any overnight visitations with the custodial parent, then the non-custodial parent may be entitled to an abatement of his child support obligation. The non-custodial parent should write a letter to the FSD office in the county in which the original child support order was decreed or registered, which can be found at the Missouri Child Support County Offices website, which includes the following information:

  1. Non-custodial parentís name, the other parentís name, and the child/ren names.
     

  2. Case or IV-D number. If you cannot locate this number, you may include your social security number.
     

  3. Request for abatement. Provide dates of when child/ren began residing in non-custodial parentís care and when returned to custodial parent (if applicable).
     

  4. Include a statement that any future child support payments are being made under protest and are not to be construed as gifts.
     

  5. Provide a valid phone number and address.
     

  6. Sign and print name.
     

  7. Date of request.

The FSD will contact the custodial parent and request validation of the abatement request. If the custodial parent agrees in writing, then the FSD will adjust the child support obligation to show the appropriate abatement credit. However, if the custodial parent disagrees, the FSD may provide notice that no abatement has been given. The non-custodial parent may then request an administrative hearing on the matter. The hearing must be requested within thirty days of receiving the notice, or the right to a hearing is considered waived. Hearings are held by the Division of Legal Services, Administrative Hearings Unit, and typically are scheduled two to three months from the time the hearing is requested. The hearing officer will determine if an abatement credit is appropriate and adjust the past due child support amount as appropriate.

It is important to note that an abatement credit can only be given for past due child support amounts and cannot be given on future payments. If the non-custodial parent does not owe any child support payments, then he or she should request a termination of the child support obligation for the time period in which the child will continue to reside with the non-custodial parent (See Termination Section below).

If the child will remain in the custody of the non-custodial parent for an indefinite period of time, the non-custodial parent should consider seeking either custody of the child or a modification of the current custody order. Information on how to proceed with a child custody arrangement can be found at the Missouri Courts Access to Family Courts website.

 

College Abatement

 

Section 452.340.5 RSMo (Cum. Supp. 2011) requires the CHILD to provide the non-custodial parent with documentation of continued enrollment in school EACH semester in order to remain eligible for child support. If the child fails to do so, a non-custodial parent may request an abatement credit for the months the child attended school and did not provide schedules or transcripts to the parent. The non-custodial parent should write a letter to the FSD office with the following information:

  1. The non-custodial parentís name, the other parentís name, and the child/ren names.
     

  2. Case or IV-D number. If you cannot locate this number, you may include your social security number.
     

  3. Request for abatement. Provide dates or semester information for times when child did not provide college transcripts.
     

  4. Include a statement that any future child support payments are being made under protest and are not to be construed as gifts.
     

  5. Provide a valid phone number and address.
     

  6. Sign and print name.
     

  7. Date of request.

The FSD will make a determination of whether an abatement credit should be given to the non-custodial parent and both parties will be notified. Either party may request an administrative hearing on the matter and the hearing officer will issue a written decision of the abatement credit. The hearing must be requested within thirty days of receiving the notice, or the right to a hearing is considered waived. Hearings are held by the Division of Legal Services, Administrative Hearings Unit, and typically are scheduled two to three months from the time the hearing is requested.

It is important to note that an abatement credit can only be given for past due child support amounts and cannot be given on future payments. Furthermore, the courts have interpreted this statute to encourage children to continue pursuing further education. See Rogers v. Rogers, WD 60438 (2002) and Rozelle v. Rozelle, Nos. ED 94167, ED 94235 (2010).

The Missouri Child Support Enforcement Call Center at 866-313-9960 can always be contacted for further guidance and assistance.

 

When does a child support order end? (Section 452.340.3 RSMo. (Cum. Supp. 2011))

 

A child support obligation terminates upon the following:

  1. The child dies,
     

  2. The child marries,
     

  3. The child enters active military duty,
     

  4. The child becomes self-supporting and the custodial parent has relinquished parental control,
     

  5. The child reaches age eighteen and does not attend education after high school or the child is mentally or physically impaired, OR

If the child attends vocational or higher education, then child support may continue until age twenty-one. See Sec. 452.340.5 RSMo (Cum. Supp. 2011).

 

If a parent believes that a child support obligation should be terminated, he or she should write a letter to the local county FSD office, which can be found at the Missouri Child Support County Offices website. The letter should include the following:

  1. Parentís name, the other parentís name, and the child/ren names.
     

  2. Case or IV-D number. If you cannot locate this number, you may include your social security number.
     

  3. Explanation of why party believes child support obligation should be terminated (Example: Age, school information, etc.)
     

  4. The letter should also include a statement that any further child support payments rendered by the party should be considered to be made under protest and are NOT to be considered as gifts or volunteer payments.
     

  5. Provide a valid phone number and address.
     

  6. Sign and print name.
     

  7. Date of request.

 

The FSD will then review the case and determine if termination of support is appropriate. Both parties will be notified of the FSD decision and either party may request an administrative hearing on the matter. The hearing must be requested within thirty days of receiving the notice, or the right to a hearing is considered waived. Hearings are held by the Division of Legal Services, Administrative Hearings Unit, and typically are scheduled two to three months from the time the hearing is requested. The hearing officer will then review the case and issue a written determination of whether or not the current child support obligation shall be terminated.

It is important to note that if there are multiple children on the child support order and if it is a general order (one total support amount listed for all of the children), rather than a child-specific order (different support amounts listed for each child or different support amounts listed for when each child is emancipated from the order), then the child support obligation will not terminate until all of the children of the existing order are emancipated.

 

Additional Child Support Resources:

 

Federal Income Tax Refund Offset

 

Missouri Department of Social Services' Child Support Website

 

The Missouri Court System's Child Support Forms

 

 

Appreciation to Danelle Cord of Jefferson City for developing this chapter.

Revised May, 2012

 

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