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What Happens if I Fall Behind on Child Support Payments in Missouri?

What Happens if I Fall Behind on Child Support Payments in Missouri?

When a judge orders one parent to pay child support, they must attempt to do so. While some judges may be willing to make allowances for late payments or modify the order, most will vigorously pursue enforcement procedures against a nonpaying parent. 

If you’re wondering what the consequences are for a Missouri parent falling behind on their child support obligations, read on to find out more.

Understanding Missouri’s Child Support System

In most circumstances, a child support issue arises after a divorce or other situations when a child doesn’t reside full-time with both biological parents. Child support payments are often made by the noncustodial parent based on the custodial parent’s income and assets

An attorney is a good resource if you need help filing this petition. The noncustodial parent typically pays voluntary monthly payments; however, the state’s Family Services Division may step in if they oppose the payments. 

Law-Enforcement Officials

The Family Support Division (FSD) of the state of Missouri is a government agency whose primary mission is to assist parents and legal guardians in acquiring and enforcing child support orders. Note that these do not have the same power as courts. 

Namely, the courts also have the jurisdiction to enforce child support orders in their own right as an autonomous branch of the judicial system. The difference is that to ensure that a parent fulfills their financial duties to their children, the FSD uses a more bureaucratic process.

The Family Support Division employs this non-judicial administrative procedure to:

  • Take legal action to collect unpaid child and medical support
  • Assist other states in managing child support
  • Financially support for children – collect, process, and disperse child support payments
  • Look over the current orders and make any required changes
  • Set up obligations to pay for childcare and medical care

Actions To Take if You Believe You May Fall Behind on Child Support Payments

If you have or are in danger of missing child support payments, you should contact your lawyer and the other parent’s lawyer to discuss the best option moving forward. 

You could also plead your case in front of a judge but be advised that they may not rule in your favor, and you may be required to pay the entire sum.

If your income is modest, your family law attorney may be able to assist you in negotiating a payment reduction, deferral, or more manageable payment plan. 

The Consequences of Missing Child Support Payments

Non-custodial parents have a monthly duty to pay the child support amount detailed in a child support order. A common repercussion of failing to do so is a move for contempt. The custodial parent has the right to submit a request to enforce the agreement’s provisions if they believe they have not received the support imposed by the court. 

With a motion to the court, the custodial parent can request assistance in collecting child support from the noncustodial parent if the latter is behind on payments. A summons will be issued to the paying parent by the court. 

Before the noncustodial parent is notified, there must be at least seven days between filing the motion and the scheduled court date. The noncustodial parent will likely be given multiple opportunities to make a payment before the court takes any drastic measures. 

Other consequences may include:

Withholding Earnings

The state may garnish a portion of a parent’s paycheck if one parent is delinquent in their child support payments. 

When a parent owes child support, the state can require their employer to deduct that amount from their monthly wages. If there are any overdue payments, a larger sum could be withheld. If child support payments are not made, the FSD may notify an individual’s employer as early as the one-month mark.


The state may attempt to recoup missed child support payments by filing a lien against the debtor’s property. One complication is that liens are only activated when the property owner tries to sell the asset. It is important to know that the other parent may not realize they have a lien on their property for several years (until they try to sell it). So, it is best to consult with an attorney specializing in family law before deciding whether or not to file a lien.

Suspension of Licenses

Any noncustodial parent delinquent in child support payments runs the risk of having their driver’s license or other professional license suspended by the state. In addition, certain professionals, such as barbers, massage therapists, and real estate brokers, may lose their professional license in the state where they work. 

Criminal Charges

The most severe cases of arrears in child support payments might result in criminal proceedings. Owing a total arrearage in excess of an aggregate of twelve monthly payments constitutes a felony in Missouri.

If charges are filed, the judge will either issue a warrant for your arrest or a summons for you to appear in court. Instead of pushing for a hefty prison term, prosecutors usually try to negotiate a payment plan with the noncustodial parent’s counsel. 

When Should You Call an Attorney?

It is imperative that you get the advice of a lawyer as soon as you think child support payments could be missed. This goes for both sides – if you are overdue on your child support payments or the other parent has not paid you what they owe you. Regarding your rights and responsibilities regarding your child support obligations, legal counsel can help shed some light on the situation for you and help you find the best way to overcome it.

Seek Legal Counsel for Your Child Support Case

The bureaucratic web of child support enforcement in Missouri can be daunting to anybody unfamiliar with the system. If charges are filed, the judge will either issue a warrant for your arrest or a summons for you to appear in court, you may need the assistance of professionals.

Count on Sloan Law Office for legal assistance. Whether you need help with your child support case or have concerns requiring an attorney’s expertise, we will discuss options and help you get the support you need. 

Contact us today!


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