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Penalties for failing to make child support payments in Missouri

When parents divorce or separate, their children are often at financial risk, and so every state, including Missouri, requires the parent who does not have custody of the children to pay support. This financial assistance is used to meet children's everyday expenses, including food, education and health care. The amount of support is determined in a child support hearing or is based on an agreement signed by both parents. The majority of noncustodial parents are responsible and pay their support on time. They also know that they can face penalties and other consequences if they do not meet their obligations.

Among those consequences are possible license suspensions, frozen assets, liens, contempt-of-court charges and jail time. Occupational and professional licenses - and even driver's licenses - can be suspended until support is paid. Those who fail to make child support payments may have lottery winnings intercepted, along with state and federal income tax refunds. Liens can be placed on real estate or other properties of parents who fall behind in making their child support payments. In the worst cases, parents are ruled to be in contempt of court and forced to spend days, weeks and sometimes months in jail.

Even if they disagree with the support orders, noncustodial parents should make their payments and avoid the consequences of nonpayment. In the end, it is the children who benefit from child support, not the custodial parents. If supporting parents face financial difficulties due to unexpected life changes such as unemployment or serious or prolonged illness, they can seek to get their support payments reduced. Courts will usually grant these requests if they determine these life events are genuine.

For child support issues and similar concerns, including the modification of support orders, both custodial and noncustodial parents should speak with a divorce attorney who knows the ins and outs of the legal processes that govern support.

Source: Missouri Department of Social Services, "What's This About Child Support?" accessed on Nov. 20, 2014

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Joseph J. Porzenski
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