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Consequences of failure to pay child support

Child support is an essential financial resource for the parent who has custody of the children. It allows that individual to provide for the children's day-to-day needs, medical expenses, educational obligations and other financial requirements. If a divorcing couple is unable to formally agree to the amount, the court will step in and issue a court order regarding child support payments, and then it is the legal obligation of one parent to complete these payments on time to the other payment. But what happens when the paying parent stops making those payments, for whatever reason?

In addition to the emotional turmoil this can send the custodial parent into, it can also lead to a lot of financial instability. This is perhaps why Missouri has established an agency named the Missouri Family Support Division- Child Support Enforcement. This agency helps parents and guardians enforce child support orders. The FSD uses an administrative process for enforcement.

One of the ways child support orders can be enforced is through wage garnishment, which basically means the employer withholds a portion of the paying parent's wages to be paid to the receiving parent. In addition to this, real estate liens can be granted, credit bureaus reported to, and revocation of driving or other professional licenses can also be pursued. In addition to finding the nonpaying person in contempt of court, it may also be possible to bring criminal charges against the parent who has not paid child support for six months within the last twelve, or the if the total delinquency is more than five thousand dollars. Though punishment can be awarded through criminal proceedings, a new order to pay can only result from civil contempt.

For parents to avail themselves of these options though, there must be a formal court order for child support, and not an informal agreement between parents. Therefore, even though it may seem like a way to save time by quickly agreeing to an amount, going through the proper legal channels to ensure child support is properly established can be beneficial in the long run.

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Joseph J. Porzenski
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