Missouri child support enforcement actions are triggered by the failure of the paying parent to comply with a formal court order for child support. Informal agreements between parents are not enforceable. There following article provides an overview of Missouri child support actions, the authorities involved, and the actions they can take against you or on your behalf.
A child support order may be enforced by the Missouri Family Support Division - Child Support Enforcement [FSD], an agency established specifically to assist parents and guardians in obtaining and enforcing child support orders, or by the courts, which retain independent judicial authority to enforce child support orders. FSD uses an administrative process to enforce child support obligations.
Methods of Enforcement
Missouri child support enforcement often involves wage withholding, also called wage garnishment. Wage withholding involves making the paying parent's employer withhold a portion of their wages to be paid to the receiving parent. Wage withholding is available without notice to the party paying support.
The FSD and the family court may pursue any of the following enforcement measures:
- Tax return, unemployment, and lottery winnings withholding;
- Real estate and property liens and attachments;
- Credit bureau reporting; or
- Suspension of drivers and professional licenses.
There are also two kinds of prosecutions that can take place:
||Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 454, Enforcement Support Law 454.390-454.1730
The FSD may issue a referral to the Child Support Enforcement Division of the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor reviews the referral and may issue an Order to Show Cause requiring the delinquent paying parent to appear in court and explain why they should not be held in contempt for failing to pay the court ordered child support. The Order to Show Cause must be personally served on the paying parent at least 7 days before the hearing date.
At the hearing the paying parent may provide any relevant excuses or seek an arrangement to begin making payments and establish a payment record. There may be a continuance to provide the paying parent an opportunity to begin complying with the order. This may result in multiple hearings.
However, if the paying parent does not comply with the Order to Show Cause, fails to make required payments, and otherwise appears unwilling to cooperate, the court may issue an order of contempt and sentence the delinquent paying parent to serve jail time.
If the delinquent paying parent fails to appear altogether, the court may issue a Writ of Body Attachment with an associated bond equal to the amount of the child support arrearages.
||Criminal prosecution possible if paying parent fails to pay child support for six months within a twelve-month period or an aggregate delinquency of more than five thousand dollars is a felony. Criminal nonsupport charges punish the failure to pay, but they do not result in a new order for payment. Unlike a civil contempt order there is no new court requirement to pay.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Additional Resources for Missouri Child Support Enforcement
If you have additional questions about child support in Missouri, click on the links below for more information:
Get Professional Legal Help With Your Child Support Issue
Missouri child support enforcement can involve a confusing tangle of agencies, courts, and court officers. Whether you are seeking the enforcement of a child support order against the paying parent, or have an enforcement action against you, the assistance of an experienced family lawyer may be necessary to most effectively present your side of the story. Don't delay; get in touch with a Missouri child support lawyer today.