Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division
ADAM W. RACKERS, Respondent,
JENNIFER A. RACKERS, Appellant.
from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri Honorable
Daniel Richard Green, Judge
Before: Anthony Rex Gabbert, P.J., Thomas H. Newton, and Alok
H. Newton, Judge
Jennifer Rackers appeals a judgment awarding her ex-husband
Mr. Adam Rackers a 50% Line 11 discount on the Form 14
child-support calculation, denying her request for a right of
first refusal when Mr. Rackers is unavailable to exercise his
right to visitation, and denying her request for attorney
fees. We remand in part and affirm in part.
and Procedural Background
marriage of Mr. and Ms. Rackers was dissolved on July 9,
2008. There were two children born of the marriage. The
parties were awarded joint legal and physical custody of the
minor children with equal custodial time, and Mr. Rackers was
ordered to pay Ms. Rackers $833.00 in child support each
dissolution was modified on June 27, 2011. In this
proceeding, the court reduced the child support payment to
$252.00 per month and granted Mr. Rackers a 50% credit on
Line 11, finding the credit to be "just and
appropriate." After the modification hearing, Ms.
Rackers was adjudged disabled by the Social Security
Administration as determined in an order dated May 15, 2012.
Rackers filed her second modification motion on June 17,
2014, alleging a substantial change in circumstances because
of her disability award and Mr. Rackers's increased
income. During the June 10, 2015, hearing, Ms. Rackers
testified that she received $1, 068.90 per month in Social
Security Disability Income and that $104.90 of that amount
was deducted for her Medicare coverage. She also testified
that she had a third child not of the marriage. Ms. Rackers
testified that she received a monthly payment of $165 for
each of her three children from the Social Security
Administration. Ms. Rackers testified that Mr. Rackers's
income had increased from $2, 979.00 per month to $4, 168.00
and that he provided health insurance for his two children at
the cost of $151.00 per month. On direct examination, Mr.
Rackers testified that he earned $23.97 per hour for a
40-hour work week and used these figures to testify to a
monthly gross income of $4, 168.00.
trial, counsel for Ms. Rackers presented a Form 14 worksheet
indicating that her monthly income was $1, 399, the sum of
her income check and the Social Security allotment for the
two boys. Her proposed Form 14 allowed a credit at Line 2C2
for her third child and included the $165 Social Security
payment for that same child at Line 2C3. Ms. Rackers's
Form 14 offered no Line 11 credit. Mr. Rackers's counsel
objected to the use of Ms. Rackers's Form 14 on the basis
that it uses incorrect numbers. The court overruled this
objection and indicated that it would also consider the Form
14 offered by Mr. Rackers.
Rackers presented a proposed Form 14 worksheet indicating his
income at $4, 168.00 per month, with a credit for health
insurance paid, and a 50% Line 11 credit. He further
testified that he was current on his child support payments
and that there was nothing provided for the children at their
mother's home that was not provided by him equally when
the children spent their periods of custody at his house.
Rackers also requested a modification indicating that when
Mr. Rackers was away for work during his custodial time with
the children, custody should "default" to her, so a
third party was not watching the children. Ms. Rackers
testified that Mr. Rackers was absent an average of five days
per month of his custodial time with the children, and that
he was unable to exercise his visitation on those occasions.
Conversely, Mr. Rackers testified that he was away "on
average less than one" night per month of his custodial
time. He explained that instead of leaving the children
overnight, he drove home to be with them. In addition, he
explained that when he was away the boys stayed with his
parents, with whom the children had a good relationship.
Ms. Rackers presented a bill for legal fees requesting that
the court order Mr. Rackers to pay all or part of her legal
fees to counsel. Her counsel asked that the trial court use
its "own expertise whether the work was necessary by
looking at the bills and taking judicial notice of the
case." On cross examination, counsel for Mr. Rackers
questioned charges for assistance with a traffic ticket and
an order of protection, and Ms. Rackers explained that she
did not expect Mr. Rackers to pay for anything related to
close of evidence, Ms. Rackers's counsel reminded the
court of her request for findings of fact and conclusions of
law to be issued. Both parties submitted proposed judgments.
trial court issued its judgment on September 1, 2015,
1. Father shall pay child support to Mother in the amount of
$355.00 per month beginning August 1, 2015. Said increased
child support shall continue to be paid via withholding and
through the Family Support Payment Center.
2. The custody schedule of the parties as per the 2011
Modification is to continue, same being just, appropriate and
in the best interests of the minor children, with the
exception that said schedule is modified to accommodate the
voluntary changes of the parties, wherein Mother shall have
the children on Wednesday and Thursday until 5:00 pm or after
school, whichsoever shall first occur, and Father shall have
the minor children on Monday and Tuesday until 5:00 pm or
after school, whichsoever shall first occur.
3. In all other respects, the Parenting Plan adopted and
modified by this Court in its previous Judgments of July 9,
2008, and June 27, 2011, shall remain in full force and
4. Each party shall be responsible for their own
attorney's fees. Court costs taxed to the filing party,
which is Respondent.
Court "will uphold the trial court's award of child
support unless no substantial evidence exists to support it,
it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously
declares or applies the law." Nelson v. Nelson,
25 S.W.3d 511, 520 (Mo. App. W.D. 2000) (citation omitted).
"An appellate court will interfere with the trial
court's award of child support if the trial court abused
its discretion by ordering an amount that is 'against the
logic of the circumstances' or 'arbitrary or
unreasonable.'" Id. (citations omitted).
"The trial court's award of child support will not
be disturbed on appeal 'unless the evidence is
"palpably insufficient" to support it.'"
Id. (quoting Allen v. Allen, 961 S.W.2d
891, 893 (Mo. App. W.D. 1998)).
first point, Ms. Rackers argues that the trial court erred in
granting Mr. Rackers a 50% discount at Line 11 of Form 14 on
the basis that no significant non-duplicated expenses for the
minor children existed. She asserts that the comments for use
of Line 11 prohibit a discount when the Line 1 income of the
parent receiving support was less than $1, 700.00 (where the
parent has two children), except where one of two specific
exceptions is satisfied. Ms. Rackers asserts that this
discount was granted in error because the undisputed evidence
shows that her Line 1 income was less than $1, 700.00, and
the evidence does not indicate that either of the exceptions
to this income threshold was satisfied in this case. We
begin our analysis by determining whether the correct values
were included in the Form 14 child-support calculation.
In Woolridge v. Woolridge, 915 S.W.2d 372, 379 (Mo.
App. W.D. 1996), this court set forth a two-step procedure
for the trial court to follow to determine child support
awards in compliance with § 452.340, RSMo 2000 and Rule
88.01. Ricklefs v. Ricklefs, 39 S.W.3d 865, 869-70
(Mo. App. W.D. 2001). The Supreme Court approved this
procedure in Neal v. Neal, 941 S.W.2d 501, 504 (Mo.
banc 1997). Id. In the first step, the trial court
"must determine and find for the record, " the
presumed child support amount under Form 14. Id. at
870. In the second step, the trial court, "after
considering all relevant factors, must determine whether to
rebut the [presumed child support amount] as being unjust or
In determining the presumed child support amount under the
first step of the procedure in Woolridge, the trial
court can either accept one of the Form 14 calculations
submitted by the parties, or reject both parties' Form 14
calculations and prepare its own Form 14…. The trial
court must reject a Form 14 calculation if "1) an item
is incorrectly included in the calculation; 2) an amount of
an item included in the calculation is incorrect; or 3) the
mathematical calculation is incorrect."
Woolridge, 915 S.W.2d at 378. To decide whether the
presumed child support amount has been correctly calculated
in a Form 14, the trial court is "guided by [Form
14]'s directions for completion and comments for use, and
the evidence in the case." Id. at 379. On
appellate review of the correctness of the presumed child
support amount, this court "'review[s] the
calculation to ensure that not only [is it] done accurately
from a mathematical standpoint, but that the various items
and their amounts were properly included in the calculation
and supported by substantial evidence.'"
Ricklefs, 39 S.W.3d at 870.
McCandless-Glimcher v. Glimcher, 73 S.W.3d 68, 72-73
(Mo. App. W.D. 2002). "Although the second step can be
performed without a mandatory worksheet or formula, the first
step of calculating the presumed [child support] amount using
Form 14 is mandatory. Further, the "formula" to be
employed and the factors to be considered in calculating the
presumed correct child support amount in a Form 14 is not
discretionary." Schumert v. Dreyer, 481 S.W.3d
885, 888-89 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016) (citations, internal
quotation marks, and footnote ...