Imprisonment possible penalty for nonpayment of child support

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Paternity/Child Support on Saturday, January 10, 2015.

When contemplating divorce, the custody of any children from the marriage and the payment of child support are two of the more contentious issues. While there are unfortunately many parents who are not active participants in their child’s life, even though they agree to pay child support, even worse are those who relinquish custody and then fail or refuse to pay the child support ordered by the court.

Actually, there is one other party involved in the care and custody of children of divorce in addition to the parents and the judge: the Missouri General Assembly.  Section 452.340. of the Missouri Code provides guidance to judges about the amount and enforcement of child support.

In most aspects of a divorce that affect any children of the marriage, the “best interest of the child” is the standard used by the courts to make decisions about custody, visitation, child support and other issues that may require the court’s involvement. But, even though the court can order parents to comply with its decisions and enforce its orders, including ordering jail time for the failure to pay child support, it cannot physically make a parent go pick up a child for visitation or put a check in the mail to pay child support at the moment it is needed.

What the court can do is hear petitions to change custody or visitation orders when its original instructions are no longer in the child’s best interest and involve other law enforcement authorities in the collection of past due child support. Under Missouri law, criminal nonsupport is a class A misdemeanor which can carry a prison term of up to one year. If the child support arrearage total is more than 12 months of support, the nonpaying parent can be charged with a class E felony, with a prison term of up to four years.

As these penalties indicate, the state of Missouri is serious about enforcement of child support orders. If a parent who has been ordered to pay child support is failing to do so as ordered by the court, the assistance of an attorney familiar with these laws can be helpful in reinstating support and recovering arrearages.

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