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  1. #1
    Sens55 is offline Junior Member
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    Modification for Custody/Support in Missouri

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? - Missouri

    Sorry up front for the long post, but here goes. I've been divorced for over 14 years in Clay County, MO. My son from that marriage is 16, almost 17. He's lived with my ex since the divorce. I had a fairly standard visitation, summers, every other weekend and every other Wednesday. But, I've worked hard to get as much access as I could (volunteered to coach, etc) over the years. As he got older, bought him his cell phone and a text package so we could stay in contact. As a result, my son and I are very close.

    I remarried 11 years ago and have a child from that marriage (9 yo) and moved from Clay County to Johnson County, KS (both in the Metro Kansas City area) . My current wife has always loved my son and we've worked hard to create a family environment for him here. We're all very close. He'd made it clear a couple of years ago he'd prefer to live with us, but being in High School and having known his classmates since Kindergarten, he didn't want to have to leave them. I understood and didn't want to move him during High School either, as I felt it might open him up to negative influences.

    Well, fate is a fickle mistress. I always knew my ex was controlling, and might have difficulties with a teenager spreading his wings, but it was worse than that. Keep in mind, he's a good kid. Straight A student, no drugs, no alcohol, never been in fights or trouble at all. One Friday night he wants to stay out with his friends until midnight at a public place. She isn't sure "she can trust him" and says "no." He's upset, he stays out anyway. As a result, she calls me at 7 am the next morning to say she's sending him to live with me for a while. I was shocked, but went along. I figured by the end of the weekend they'd both mellow out, we'd all talk and he'd go back. The next day he was ready to meet with her to discuss it, but she "was still upset and wasn't ready to meet him". She felt a week at my place would be best. After a week, she STILL wasn't ready, so we agreed he'd stay at my place for the rest of the school year and drive back and forth to school (45 miles one way!!!). Since he stayed summers with me, we'd work it all out then.

    During the summer, he said he wanted to stay with us and she agreed.

    In the past, our relationship was sometimes contentious, but mostly civil. We'd made many "modifications" to our agreement by mutual consent and it worked well for 14 years. So, when we discussed it, she said she'd pay me some money in August (when summer custody would normally switch back for the school year). He was accepted into a prep school and prepared for our first school year together. Then she decided that 1) she wouldn't sign the paperwork acknowledging custody now resided with me and 2) said she "couldn't pay child support"! I told her to just tell me what she could afford and, if it was reasonable, I'd agree. She said she couldn't pay ANYTHING! Of course, I think that's totally unacceptable.

    So, I attempted to file here in Johnson County, KS for modification but now know that, because she still resides in Clay County, MO, I have to file there. In KS, I can file Pro Se and it'll cost me less than $100. I can download the papers online or pick them up at the court. But, when I called Clay County, they said they didn't know of anything to give me and that I HAD to get an attorney. I spoke to 2 attorneys and they want $1000 up front, and it'd probably be more than that befores it's over.

    So, here's my concern. First, he's almost 17. Secondly, I know she's not doing well financially, and based off of most of the calculators I've seen online, I'd only get $200 to $400/month. If I spend $2000 to get $200, I'll barely break even. If I push for a lot more money, I'm afraid I'll bury her, and my son will resent me for "doing it to her". And, I don't want to bankrupt her. I just want some help. After enrolling him in the school thinking we'd get some support, we're struggling now!

    Additionally, although I know custody has changed "de facto" because he's been with me for 5 months now and she not only consented, she ASKED him to. But, without a court order, or something signed by her, I really don't have anything showing legally that I am the custodial parent if I have to make any legal decisions (and I'm not even going to get into enrolling in college issues!) Secondly, although I paid her directly, I don't have anything "protecting" me from owing her child support.

    So, first off, is there anyplace I can go to get the modification forms? I've looked online, but haven't seen anything in particular. I did ask the Clerk of Courts, and they did say, if I got a hold of it, they'd accept it with the filing fee. And, is there anything else I can do? It'd be easy if she'd see reason and just do the right thing. But, if she won't, I don't know if I have any other choice but to spend a lot of money to do something that, in my mind, is a pretty clear cut issue.....custody has changed and she owes support.

    Thanks,
  2. #2
    CJane is offline Senior Member
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    Clay County actually tends to be rather friendly towards pro se litigants and no, you don't NEED an attorney. However, one might be beneficial not only for their knowledge of the courtroom, but so that you don't have to miss quite as much time off work for hearings, etc.

    Go here:

    [url=http://www.selfrepresent.mo.gov/page.asp?id=5240]Representing Yourself Home[/url]

    And here:

    [url]http://members.mobar.org/pdfs/fls/plan.pdf[/url]

    Missouri doesn't actually have official forms to fill out and turn in like some states do. For a Motion to Modify need to file a Motion with the court outlining the reasoning - the changes in circumstances - that make it in the child's best interests to modify the custody arrangement.

    You need to include a parenting plan (second link).

    And, you need to realize that this could easily take more than a year in court. Therefore, it's probably not economical to attempt to modify at this stage. Honestly? If you were only looking at around $200 a month from Mom in CS and you're 'struggling' due to not getting it + tuition, you weren't doing well enough to afford prep school anyway.

    Send Jr to public school. Suck it up. Enjoy your last year or so with him.

    And yes, a mom in your situation would get the same advice.
  3. #3
    Sens55 is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks

    CJane,

    Thanks. I knew it would take a while, which is why I've tried to do this without going to court. And, at this point, the money is more gas and pocket money for my son. Because he's involved with sports, he can't easily get a job. And any money would ease the burden. Besides, when I had to pay her child support, if I was even a day late she'd threaten me with calling the police and told my son I was a "deadbeat".

    As far removing him from the private school, that's not going to happen. We viewed the public school and I'm not putting him there. Our "burden" is more cashflow than affordability. And, the total expense was a little more than we'd anticipated, since he ended up being dual enrolled at the school and JuCo to get college credits (That was $1200 with no notice). We've readjusted to the new demands on short notice. We can rearrange the budget again, but would prefer not to. Especially since it's only right that she help contribute SOMETHING to his upkeep. I've even offered to let her deposit money directly into his checking account without me taking possession.

    My last question then is, is there any potential liability if I don't do anything? I can move forward and forget her and her invovlement with my son (although I don't understand how she could walk away....I'd have entered the gates of Hell to be with him). But I'm afraid at some point if something happens (medical, school, college or whatever), or if she chooses to say that he HAS to come back to her, or that I owe her back support, I won't have anything from the courts saying I was absolved of that obligation or had the rights to do what I'm doing now. Again, I could fight it, and win. But would that be more costly? Or should I just move forward with our lives and forget her? Again, I'd prefer mediation or an agreement between us. I even think me filing could be the "shot over the bow" to get her moving, which is why I was hoping to do Pro Se and throw a few hundred dollars to get her to the table, as opposed to a few thousand to litigate.

    Thanks again.
  4. #4
    TinkerBelleLuvr is offline Senior Member
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    Your biggest issue is getting the child support order STOPPED. If she had a steady stream of money coming in, and now it is not, AND will have an unexpected expense of child support, she can truly be in a cash flow financial straits.

    Follow CJanes advice on the site since she is the resident Missouri expert.

    Have you considered a step approach on the child support. Nothing the first couple months, and then a gradual increase so that mom can get her finances straight?
  5. #5
    Sens55 is offline Junior Member
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    Yes

    Ginny,

    Yes. I didn't ask for any money for April or May (even though he lived here those months) and I still paid HER for those months! Then, he'd normally be with me for this summer and would have normally gone back to her on August 15th. That would normally be when I'd start paying her again. When she said she couldn't pay then, I asked her when she thought she might, and she said October. I was willing to wait until October, but I wanted SOMETHING in writing as to how much, when and how it would be paid. She then said she didn't think she could do anything. So, she's had 6 months to figure this out, and I still underwrote 2 of those months just for that reason. And, she wouldn't have expected any money from me June thru Aug 15 anyway. So, she actually had two months of me paying her, without any additional expense of having him with her.

    As far as getting the support order stopped, that is one of my concerns. But, it seems that the process would be the same. And, it doesn't make sense to spend a couple thousand dollars just to keep from paying a couple thousand dollars Additionally, I do have some emails from her acknowledging that he could live with me, and confirming I'd pay her thru May and wouldn't expect anything from her until August. She was amiable until it became time to actually write the check. Now she won't respond at all.

    And, I have no sympathy for her plight. She's remarried, two incomes, living in a nice house with nice cars and currently no kids in the house. They've put themselves in serious debt, but that's their problem not mine. My wife and I have made choices to live in a smaller home with older cars to be able to put our kids into better schools and provide them opportunities like extracurricular activities (that are fairly expensive...$3 to $4K/year). Instead, they have a new Audi....I have no idea how they managed that. She doesn't make that much a year. They are obviously over their heads in debt. But, again, that's no excuse for not at least giving $100/month to her son.
  6. #6
    majomom1 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sens55 View Post
    Ginny,

    Yes. I didn't ask for any money for April or May (even though he lived here those months) and I still paid HER for those months! Then, he'd normally be with me for this summer and would have normally gone back to her on August 15th. That would normally be when I'd start paying her again. When she said she couldn't pay then, I asked her when she thought she might, and she said October. I was willing to wait until October, but I wanted SOMETHING in writing as to how much, when and how it would be paid. She then said she didn't think she could do anything. So, she's had 6 months to figure this out, and I still underwrote 2 of those months just for that reason. And, she wouldn't have expected any money from me June thru Aug 15 anyway. So, she actually had two months of me paying her, without any additional expense of having him with her.

    As far as getting the support order stopped, that is one of my concerns. But, it seems that the process would be the same. And, it doesn't make sense to spend a couple thousand dollars just to keep from paying a couple thousand dollars Additionally, I do have some emails from her acknowledging that he could live with me, and confirming I'd pay her thru May and wouldn't expect anything from her until August. She was amiable until it became time to actually write the check. Now she won't respond at all.

    And, I have no sympathy for her plight. She's remarried, two incomes, living in a nice house with nice cars and currently no kids in the house. They've put themselves in serious debt, but that's their problem not mine. My wife and I have made choices to live in a smaller home with older cars to be able to put our kids into better schools and provide them opportunities like extracurricular activities (that are fairly expensive...$3 to $4K/year). Instead, they have a new Audi....I have no idea how they managed that. She doesn't make that much a year. They are obviously over their heads in debt. But, again, that's no excuse for not at least giving $100/month to her son.
    No, it's not the same. You file to have the CS stopped immediately, on the grounds that son is now living with you AND pending your Motion to Modify. What this gives you is a stop date for CS... so that Mom cannot try to come after any back child support. It also gives you a start date for the court to order Mom to pay CS.

    This would only take a small amount of money to file and you can do this on your own. Read the links that Cjane gave you. You can ask to waive the required mediation on the basis that son is almost 17, and is already living with you. There is nothing to mediate as Mom is the one that sent son to you.

    Mom should be paying something... and once all these papers actually get to her, she may realize it is not worth the money to fight it and then will agree.
  7. #7
    Sens55 is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks again. This really helps. I am hoping that when she gets the paper she decides to come to the table. Originally I had a document drafted basically saying I would pay her child support to this point, none would be paid for the summer and she'd start paying at this point. She agreed in principle, but wouldn't sign it. I'm hoping if she gets this paperwork, she'll just sign it and we'll get on with life!

    Thanks for everyone that's helped.
  8. #8
    CJane is offline Senior Member
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    I'll tell you what's VERY likely to happen when she's served w/the motion to modify/cease CS.

    She's going to demand the return of the child and counter-file for an increase in CS and custody because of your refusal to return the child to her at the end of summer. Doesn't matter if it's true, people will put ANYTHING in a motion, I promise you.

    And then you're going to be embroiled in court for the next 18 months until it doesn't even matter and nothing will be resolved and you'll both manage to make your kid feel like it's his fault.

    From a purely personal/parental standpoint, you really should consider doing NOTHING at all except parenting your child for the next year and not rocking the boat.

    If you simply feel you MUST do SOMETHING legally, I'd recommend you DO NOT ask for CS from mom at all... not if you want anything accomplished before the child turns 18 anyway.
  9. #9
    Sens55 is offline Junior Member
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    Um CJane,

    I appreciate you taking the time to offer advice. I really do. But, I guess I fail to understand how my protecting myself from being sued for child support for a child that doesn't live with the person suing, trying to make sure that I have the same parental rights my ex has had for 14 years and asking for a modicum of support is rocking the boat. And, I didn't "fail to return the kid at the end of summer". She asked him to leave and agreed that he would stay here!

    I think I've made if pretty plain that my entire focus has been to avoid litigation and do what's right for my son. Asking his mother to cover his gas money so he can drive to school isn't exactly demanding much. And, quite frankly, I can't see how she'd counter sue for custody when she's the one that told him to leave in the first place. She could have had him back anytime she wanted, but she didn't even make the effort to try and see him for a weekend, let alone permanently. She's known since May I was going to stop paying child support and ask for support. This isn't new. And, I'm pretty sure my son understands the situation. I try to keep most of it from him, but he knows his mom asked him to leave. He knows his mom is refusing to pay anything and he's already said he's not moving back with her even if she wanted him to.

    And, if she wants to counter sue, that's good news. It shows if she can afford an attorney, she can afford to pay child support. If need be, I can easily liquidate some holdings and have a lot of fun playing "waste your money in court game". Besides, when I looked at the Missouri statutes, it mentioned that he wasn't emanicpated until 21 if he went to college, which he most assuredly will. So, from my standpoint, it's 4 1/2 years worth of pocket money for my son.

    Again, I appreciate you taking the time to respond, but I'm not sure based on your answers if you've completely read the situation correctly.
  10. #10
    majomom1 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sens55 View Post
    Um CJane,

    I appreciate you taking the time to offer advice. I really do. But, I guess I fail to understand how my protecting myself from being sued for child support for a child that doesn't live with the person suing, trying to make sure that I have the same parental rights my ex has had for 14 years and asking for a modicum of support is rocking the boat. And, I didn't "fail to return the kid at the end of summer". She asked him to leave and agreed that he would stay here!

    I think I've made if pretty plain that my entire focus has been to avoid litigation and do what's right for my son. Asking his mother to cover his gas money so he can drive to school isn't exactly demanding much. And, quite frankly, I can't see how she'd counter sue for custody when she's the one that told him to leave in the first place. She could have had him back anytime she wanted, but she didn't even make the effort to try and see him for a weekend, let alone permanently. She's known since May I was going to stop paying child support and ask for support. This isn't new. And, I'm pretty sure my son understands the situation. I try to keep most of it from him, but he knows his mom asked him to leave. He knows his mom is refusing to pay anything and he's already said he's not moving back with her even if she wanted him to.

    And, if she wants to counter sue, that's good news. It shows if she can afford an attorney, she can afford to pay child support. If need be, I can easily liquidate some holdings and have a lot of fun playing "waste your money in court game". Besides, when I looked at the Missouri statutes, it mentioned that he wasn't emanicpated until 21 if he went to college, which he most assuredly will. So, from my standpoint, it's 4 1/2 years worth of pocket money for my son.

    Again, I appreciate you taking the time to respond, but I'm not sure based on your answers if you've completely read the situation correctly.
    Cjane read it correctly... she is just saying what you have really already said too... It is going to cost you more in legal fees to do this and it will take a long time. I personally would just try to file to have the CS stopped due to him living with you and tell mom that you don't want CS. That doesn't mean the court won't order Mom to pay it, but it may keep her quiet and cost less money, until you can get into court.
  11. #11
    CJane is offline Senior Member
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    Ok.

    Kiddo is almost 17.

    Let's say you file tomorrow for this Mod. Serve Mom. She has 30 days or so to respond. Then YOU have time to respond to that motion. Then you do discovery.... another 60 days or so even if Mom responds appropriately (and you do too). If responses AREN'T forthcoming, then you have to schedule a hearing on a motion to compel. Then you get the answers. Then you set a trial date. Plan on at least one continuance.

    If you're LUCKY you'll be in court in 8 months. How old will your son be THEN?

    Too late at that point to really worry about custody, so then you're just down to child support.

    THAT can be handled solely through CSE in Missouri.

    What I'm trying to explain to you is that COURT isn't necessarily your best, most economical option.

    Make more sense?
  12. #12
    Sens55 is offline Junior Member
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    CJane,

    I said from the start that court wasn't my best option and have done everything possible to keep from going. But, at this point, I'm sitting in a position where, legally, I have nothing to back up my position as the custodial parent. In 8 months he'll be 17. But, again, once he goes to college, child support is due until 21.

    Again, the main point is, I've made ever effort to reconcile this outside of the courts. She can countersue, but, again, if she can afford an attorney, she can afford child support. After all, they run about $150-$200 an hour, and I'm only asking for a few hundred a month!

    But, even that misses the point. I am very worried about something happening, and me having to make a decision, i.e. he's in an accident, and at some point (then or after), my ability to make that decision is called into question! The potential liability could be much more than the current legal fees. Again, an outside chance, but insurance nonetheless.

    And, finally, by this time next year, he's going to have to start applying to schools. It's going to become VERY complicated if he's graduating from a Kansas High School, but is still a "Missouri" resident. Luckily most of the schools around here have reciprical arrangements, but some may not. But, when it comes to finanical aid....who is responsible for filing the FAFSA? Who's income is taken into consideration? If I fill those out using my information, again, am I opening myself up to potential liability, as "falsifying" those documents constitutes a crime! And, while I would not intentionally falsify, if I file incorrectly, it could be construed as the same thing!

    So, while I agree that going to court isn't my best option...I've ALWAYS known that. I've made every attempt to AVOID it. But, if she won't deal reasonably, I guess I just don't buy that doing nothing is better than doing something!
  13. #13
    Sens55 is offline Junior Member
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    You said CSE could handle the child support. However, the two attornies I have spoken with (and another who's a personal friend but doesn't do family law in MO) informed me that, without a modification from the courts, CSE couldn't do anything, because there was no court order to enforce. If you can tell me how to get CSE to enforce child support without an order, I'm all ears. That would be perfect.

    When I look at the advice I've been given here, it seems contradictory. I've been told to make a motion to amend to keep from having to pay child support, but also told do to nothing. If I make a motion to stop having to pay child support, I am filing a modification to the original agreement. Isn't that the same process as filing to change custody and request support as well? If I'm going to do it, why go half way? And, if I do nothing, doesn't that still leave me open to being sued for back childsupport (even if it isn't really due)?

    Again, I'm not trying to be contentious. But, I AM making sure I approach this correctly. And, quite frankly, if the ex wants to fight in court, that's her choice. She can explain to the judge why an Audi A4 sports car is more important than supporting her son. I know HE'S wondering about that as well.
  14. #14
    CJane is offline Senior Member
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    Ok. Let's look at this in pieces.

    1) What does your order say regarding LEGAL custody, and PHYSICAL custody?
    2) Does it address medical decisions seperately anywhere?
    3) What does it say regarding CS EXACTLY? Particularly, what does it say regarding CS ending?
    4) What does it say as far as the child's address for school purposes?

    There are other ways to approach this, even through the courts, w/out approaching it as a motion to modify custody.

    On a less legal/more personal note... stop assuming that the courts will think that just because she drives a nice car/hires an attorney/dresses from the best labels/has a great house/whatever that she can afford X in CS.

    If you want, I can link you to a spreadsheet that is what MO uses to figure CS. You can fill it out and see what you're looking at.

    Regarding the FAFSA: It is the person whom the child physically resides with that is responsible for filling out the forms. Your income and your CURRENT WIFE'S income is what would be used for the financial information.

    He is NOT a MO resident for application purposes because he resides in KS and attends a KS high school.
  15. #15
    Sens55 is offline Junior Member
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    OK. The old decree is written so that:

    She has legal and physical custody. It was conceded that, because he was so young when we divorced that my chances of getting custody at that time were between slim and none (he was 1 or so). So we focused on getting as much access as I could to him.

    But, the decree has the standard "the two parties shall confer on issues of schooling, medical, religion, etc. In the event the parties cannot agree, the custodial parent (her) shall have the ability to decide". That's not verbatim, but pretty close. The way it's been implemented to this point was her telling me that she was going to do this, that or the other. If I didn't agree, she'd just say "too bad, I have the last say". So, in essence, right now, I don't have the legal right to enroll him into the school I am now. I don't have the right to approve a surgery. Or, in this instance, he's considering converting to our faith (which to this point she's blocked), but I can't actually help him (it would be HIS decision, NOT MINE!). In all of these issues, I've asked him what he wanted to do, and, as long as it was reasonable, which to this point it has been, we've worked to make it happen. But, the way it's written now, I'm just taking advantage of her apathy to make my son's life better. But I can't guarantee that apathy will continue. And, if it doesn't, I have nothing backing me up.

    Child support ends upon "emancipation", which I always took to mean 18. However, I read the statutes over the weekend, and they define it otherwise, even going into detail about the child having to provide grades within a certain time frame or the CS ceases, never to be restarted. It also says at that point they can pay the kid directly, which I'd be happy to oblige currently.

    If there are other ways to approach this, I'm all for it. My goal has been, from the beginning, to make this as easy on everyone as I can be. I've paid support for 2 months that he wasn't even with her. I've offered to accept anything she can do. I've made sure she's informed of EVERY event, school function, grades, etc (which is way more than I was ever given). In other words, I've gone out of my way to treat her the way I'd want to be treated in her shoes...and I've BEEN in her shoes. But, I also need to make sure I don't leave myself open for a liability that far exceeds the costs.

    In terms of me thinking the courts will care...well, I know better than that. But, if you look at my posts, I've never assumed that because she has those material things she could afford X in support. My determination of what she would pay was based off of a couple of online calculators I found that you entered your income, hers, and things like child care and insurance and it spits out a number. I used a guesstimate of what she makes to get my numbers. But, my issue is that she is saying she can't afford to pay ANYTHING. And, I have to believe the courts would believe her responsibility to pay for her son exceeds her responsibility to the Audi dealer.

    I'd welcome the spreadsheet. Every piece of info helps me make better decisions. Thank you on the issue with the FAFSA. I was fairly certain we could work that out, but not 100%. I've always claimed him as a deduction, so I knew he could go to Kansas schools for in-state, even if he graduated from a MO school.

    So, as a wrap up, I'd welcome your spreadsheet and any other ideas of how to handle this without a modify order. I'll take a look, and then decide which way to go, or if I just want to bite the bullet and have an attorney do it.

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