Attorney, Cordell & Cordell, P.C.
For many single parents, the summer means extended visitation with their children. Often parents who only see their sons or daughters once a week and every other weekend are now able to spend two, four or even six weeks at a time with their kids. There are vacations to the beach, the lake, or in the recent economic climate the increasingly popular “stay-cation.”
This time can be the most useful time to continue developing a relationship with your kids, but it also comes at a price. Vacations aren’t cheap, and even if you simply relax in the comforts of your own home, the sudden onslaught of a teenage appetite on your pantry can be significant to say the least. There’s now another mouth to feed, another person using the utilities, and the expense of running your child all around town. You have budgeted around your child support payments for the whole year, and now it seems like you are paying double. Is there any remedy for your added efforts and expenses?
Unfortunately for most parents it is unlikely, but there are some ways to ensure you’re not paying double during the summer months.
If you live in Missouri or another state which uses a similar system, your child support was likely based in part on something called a Form 14. One section of the Form 14 takes into account visitation credits. This reduces the amount of support you pay throughout the year based on the number of overnight visits you will amass in a twelve-month period. When calculating this amount, it is important that your attorney take into account the extended periods of visitation over the summer. Let’s look at an example of how this might play out:
Joe was divorced this past fall. Due to Joe’s work schedule though, he was unable to have overnight visitation for more than every Wednesday and two nights every other weekend. Joe’s attorney correctly calculates that under this schedule, Joe will amass 104 overnight visits. Every summer though, Joe takes a two-week vacation to go camping and fishing with his children. All things being equal, Joe now has 114 overnight visits. Although this may seem like a minor difference, according to Missouri’s Form 14, it’s the difference between a 10% visitation credit and a 21% visitation credit.
The theory behind visitation credits is that instead of giving your ex money to reimburse them for the expense of taking care of the child, you are now the one spending the money to care for your kids. It is for this reason that child support does not abate, or stop, while you have these extended periods of visitation.
Child support may abate during a summer custody period, however, if the visitation was not awarded in the parenting plan. For instance:
Fifteen years ago, Robert and Deborah had a child together in Missouri. At the time of the custody battle, Robert was also battling a drug addiction. Consequently Martha was awarded sole legal and physical custody. Over time, Robert conquered his addiction and Martha began allowing their son, Sam, to visit him. This year, Martha has agreed to allow Sam to use a month of his summer vacation to have an extended visit with his father. Robert now may have an argument for abatement of child support during this summer period.
Under RSMO 452.340.2, the obligation of a parent ordered to pay support shall abate, in whole or in part, during a time period longer than 30 consecutive days that the other parent voluntarily relinquishes physical custody of the child to the paying parent, notwithstanding any periods of visitation or custody pursuant to a judgment or modification.
As you can tell from the statute, this applies to very specific instances. First, you must have custody for at least 31 consecutive days. Although many of you who read this may think this is an impossibility it may be relatively easy compared to the second element; these days cannot include days that you were awarded in your judgment. Therefore, if you have been awarded six weeks of visitation over the summer, the fact that you exercise that visitation consecutively will not stop your child support payments.
Even if you haven’t been awarded such a length of time in your judgment, but you were awarded at least one day per month and it is always on the first (choose your day) of the month, this law will likely not apply. If, however, you think this law, or one similar to it in your State, may apply, you should speak with your attorney to determine whether this law applies to you and how you can have you payments stopped or withheld during this time prior withholding payment on your own.
William Halaz, III is a Staff Attorney in the Arnold, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. Mr. Halaz is licensed to practice in the state of Missouri. Mr. Halaz received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Southeast Missouri State University. Then continuing his education, received his Juris Doctor from St. Louis University’s School of Law.