Unfortunately, not every parent who is legally obligated to pay child support fulfills this obligation. If you recently divorced in St. Charles, MO and received a child support order requiring your ex to pay you child support, it’s vital to carefully track the payments you receive to ensure they are paid on time and in full. When a parent fails to make a child support payment or refuses to pay legally owed child support for any reason, you need to have someone in your corner. The right attorney can explain your legal rights and the options in Missouri available for collecting delinquent child support.

Some paying parents wonder if the money they’re sending to their children’s parents is actually being used appropriately. Receiving parents may worry if they are going to receive payments on time and if they will be enough to cover their kids’ expenses. Child support can easily lead to stressful situations and disputes between divorced parents, especially when it comes to failure or refusal to pay. If you find yourself in this situation, the Missouri Department of Social Services’ Family Support Division (FSD) will handle your issue in several possible ways.

What Is the Missouri FSD?

The Missouri FSD exists to ensure the proper execution of child support agreements in the state. When there is any dispute over a child support order between divorced parents, it is up to the FSD to investigate and determine the best available remedy. The FSD also performs additional services meant to serve the child support determination process, including the establishment of paternity for an unmarried couple’s children and review of existing child support orders. While the FSD sometimes plays a role during active divorce proceedings, it manages child support and related issues using administrative, non-judicial processes.

The FSD supports the judicial processes involved in many divorce cases by collecting, reviewing, and processing child support payments. They also work with other state agencies to ensure the payment and receipt of child support payments and, finally, enforce paying parents’ obligations in terms of child and medical support.

Potential Remedies for Unpaid Child Support

When a receiving parent does not receive legally owed child support from a paying spouse in St. Charles, the FSD can investigate the issue and take remedial action in several different ways. There are several different methods the FSD has available for collecting child support from parents who do not meet their child support obligations:

  • All child support orders issued in Missouri include a withholding clause that stipulates a paying parent’s income is subject to withholding if they do not pay child support. The FSD can legally withhold a paying parent’s wages, employment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, and unemployment benefits to apply the withheld funds to their overdue child support balances.
  • The FSD will report paying parents with outstanding child support balances to their respective credit bureaus, effectively damaging their credit scores and making it more difficult for them to secure financing.
  • The FSD may find it appropriate to file liens against a paying parent’s properties, including real estate, vehicles, RVs, and even bank accounts. These liens will remain until the paying parent pays their overdue child support.
  • The FSD can choose to suspend a paying parent’s driver’s license as well as their professional, occupational, and recreational licenses.
  • When a paying parent moves out of Missouri, the Missouri FSD will coordinate with the appropriate agencies in their new state of residence to ensure the continuation of child support payments.
  • In some cases, the FSD may file a contempt action against a paying parent who has not met their child support obligation. This is a very serious legal matter. It compels the paying parent to appear in court and “show cause” or provide a reasonable explanation as to why they have not paid their child support payments. Contempt hearings may result in jail time for the paying parent or judgments that damage their credit scores.
  • In extreme cases, the FSD will refer cases for criminal prosecution.

Ultimately, unless the paying parent has a very good and reasonable excuse for failing to pay their child support payments, the punishments imposed by the FSD can compound the paying parent’s financial strain in many ways. Every parent required to pay child support under a child support order in St. Charles should make paying their child support payments their top financial priority to avoid potentially serious penalties, compounded debt, and severely diminished credit score.

Avoiding FSD Entanglements

While some parents refuse to pay child support for their own reasons, others are unable to pay for reasons entirely beyond their control. Some examples of situations that may prevent a paying parent from meeting their child support obligations might include losing their job, an unexpected medical event, or a serious injury that has left them unable to work. A family law attorney is a vital resource in such situations. The paying parent may be able to defer payments, change their payment structure, or take other legal action to prevent potential penalties from the FSD.

What to Do If You Are a Receiving Parent

If you are a receiving parent who has not received legally owed child support, it’s vital to contact a St. Charles family law attorney right away. Your attorney can assess the situation and coordinate with the FSD if necessary to get the child support payments you’re owed. Both the FSD and the family court system of Missouri have a legal duty to protect the best interests of your children. This duty includes the enforcement of your child support order. If either you or your ex needs to adjust your child support order for any reason, such as a change in employment or a child’s development of a new medical condition, legal representation is essential. An attorney can help you navigate the court proceedings involved in changing a child support order.

Unpaid child support is a serious matter. The Missouri FSD pursues claims of unpaid child support aggressively. Regardless of whether you are a paying parent with a legitimate reason why you cannot pay your child support or a receiving parent who knows your ex has the ability to pay yet refuses to do so, seeking reliable legal counsel in St. Charles is the best way to overcome these issues as quickly as possible.