Child support is assigned after parents separate or divorce in Missouri, depending on certain factors. Both parents are expected to financially support their children, and child support is how parents with different incomes or parenting time provide it. This support is necessary for parents to provide for their children’s basic needs. When one parent fails to pay support, you need a St. Charles child support enforcement attorney to determine the next steps.

Parents are expected to comply with child support orders. When they do not, the court and governmental agencies can take specific actions to enforce these orders. In extreme situations, non-paying parents can face criminal charges and potential jail time. If you are a parent who relies on support payments to support your children, there are steps you can take to get the money you need.

Support orders are made to be payable without placing a paying parent into financial hardship. However, financial circumstances can change, or the support amount may have been miscalculated. If you, as a paying parent, cannot make your payments, you should always request a modification or talk to an attorney as soon as possible. It’s never in your interests to ignore the issue and simply stop making payments, as the consequences could be serious.

Child Support Orders and Enforcement

Child support payments in Missouri can be ordered by a family court or by the Missouri Family Support Division (FSD) of Child Support Enforcement. This is usually part of a divorce, separation, or paternity case. Although child support is governed by state and federal laws, enforcement is typically in the hands of a state agency or state family court. The FSD keeps track of payments in its automated system, while the court may order direct payments or payments through a similar agency.

These agencies may take action themselves if payments are clearly not being made through an automated system. However, if you are a parent who should be receiving child support orders directly and are not, you may need to act on the issue yourself. If you have attempted to talk with your co-parent and they are unwilling to discuss the situation, you can work with the court or the FSD. Your attorney can help you through this process and determine what steps would be most effective.

How Are Support Payments Enforced?

Depending on whether you work with the court or the FSD, and the severity of back payments, several enforcement actions could be taken. These include:

  • Withholding Earnings: A non-paying parent can be made to pay support payments through their employment. The state can order an employer to withhold the amount of support payments from the parent’s wages, including back payments. This is often the most effective way to recover support payments unless the parent doesn’t have consistent employment, is self-employed, or is unemployed.
  • Administrative Penalties: The state can place liens and attachments on the non-paying parent’s property and assets, preventing them from selling those assets until they pay child support. The state could also suspend any licenses that the parent carries, including a driver’s license, recreational license, or professional license.
  • Contempt of Court: Contempt of court may be filed when a parent refuses to pay child support, and the non-paying parent must appear at the court hearing. If they do not, the court will put a warrant out for their arrest. When the parent does not have good cause for failing to pay, they may be found in criminal nonsupport and charged with a misdemeanor. If the amount owed is significant, the charge could be a felony.


Q: What Happens If a Father Doesn’t Pay Child Support in Missouri?

A: There are several actions that can be taken, depending on how much support or how long support has gone unpaid. Enforcement actions in Missouri may include:

  • Income withholdings
  • Driver’s, professional, or recreational license suspension
  • Seizing assets and property
  • Placing liens on assets
  • Filing for contempt of court
  • A warrant, criminal charges, and potential incarceration

If you are a parent who is unable to pay child support, you should file for order modification with the court or discuss your situation with an attorney. Child support payments are meant to provide financial support to your children, and they should be within your ability to pay. The original orders may have been improperly calculated, or circumstances may have changed. If so, a support order can be modified.

Q: How Far Behind in Child Support Can You Be Before a Warrant Is Issued in Missouri?

A: You can be charged with criminal penalties and jail time for failing to pay child support in the following situations:

  1. A hearing is scheduled to enforce a child support order, and you do not attend this hearing.
  2. At the hearing, you are determined to have knowingly failed to pay child support that you are legally obligated to pay, and there was no good cause for being unable to provide it.

Criminal nonsupport is a Class A misdemeanor in Missouri. However, if the total support payments missed add up to 12 months or more of payments, it becomes a Class E felony.

Q: What Are the Rules for Child Support in Missouri?

A: In Missouri, child support obligations continue until a child reaches 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens later. The exception to this rule is if the child attends a college or university, or they are mentally or physically incapacitated. In those situations, child support orders end when the child turns 21 unless they remain mentally or physically incapacitated. Then, support orders continue.

Child support orders also end if the child dies, marries, is on active military duty, or becomes otherwise emancipated and self-supporting. A specific child support order may also have its own stipulations for when support ends.

Q: Do You Have to Pay Child Support If You Have Joint Custody in Missouri?

A: In Missouri, the determination for child support relies primarily on the income of each parent and how much custodial time each parent has with their child. If parents have joint physical custody, then support will largely depend on the income of each parent. The parent with a higher income will likely be paying the lower-earning spouse support payments.

Protecting Your Family’s Interests

It can be stressful and uncertain when your co-parent is failing to pay the support payments you need to provide for your child. An attorney can provide legal support during this time and determine which options can most help your family. Contact us today.