When your co-parent falls behind on child support payments, you do not have to handle the matter by yourself. You have several legal alternatives to get the money your children are owed. A diligent attorney from our firm is here to discuss the issue with you and ensure you understand your options.
From negotiating a settlement to taking legal action, a Ballwin child support enforcement lawyer could help you collect the money you need to move forward. Allow the experienced attorneys of Jones Family Law Group, LLC, to protect your child’s best interests today.
Child Support is a Legal Obligation
Both parents must contribute financially to provide for their children’s basic needs. The parent who has custody of the children most of the time makes their contribution by providing a home, meals, clothing, and paying the child’s everyday expenses. The non-custodial parent contributes a share of these costs through child support payments. However, the trend is towards equal parenting time where both parents contribute a home and also contribute financially. Even if equal parenting time circumstances, child support may still be ordered paid by one parent to the other parent.
Parents sometimes fall behind on their support obligations. This may be due to a change in their circumstances that limits the funds they have available to contribute. In other cases, a parent might cease paying support because they do not trust the other parent to use it for the children’s benefit, are unhappy with their custody or visitation arrangement, or are bitter toward the other parent.
When a paying parent cannot make their child support payment because of financial constraints, they could inform their co-parent. It could be possible to negotiate a modified child support payment schedule if the current payment obligation differs by a significant percentage from the amount the child support guidelines would recommend based on the parent’s current circumstances. Courts typically accept a child support modification both parents agree to as long as it serves the children’s best interests.
Responding When a Parent Falls Behind on their Child Support
The Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division, manages child support in the state. For some families, the Division collects and distributes payments, tracks when a parent falls behind, and offers multiple options to enforce child support payments when a parent falls into arrears.
However, like most government agencies, the Division has fewer staff than it needs to handle the child support enforcement process efficiently. A Ballwin attorney from our firm could bring an action in Family Court to enforce a child support order, and this option could result in a faster resolution. If you can prove your co-parent is behind on their support, Missouri Revised Statutes §452.350 allows a Family Court judge to:
- Garnishee the co-parent’s wages
- Attach their income tax refund and lottery winnings
- Suspend their driver’s license and other recreational and professional licenses
- Put a lien on their home and property, such as cars, boats, motorcycles, or RVs
- Report the arrears to credit bureaus
In addition, a Family Court judge could find the parent in contempt of court, leading to fines, an order to pay your court costs and attorney’s fees, and even jail time in some cases.
What Not to Do When a Parent Falls into Arrears
If you are the custodial parent and your co-parent has fallen behind on their support payments, responding appropriately is important. Although the late payments might be causing you significant stress, how you respond could impact how the court views your parenting abilities. Courts expect parents to put their children’s emotional well-being first and support the children’s relationship with their other parent. It is wise to speak with our Ballwin child support enforcement attorney about your obligations.
For example, telling your children that their other parent is not paying child support is typically viewed poorly by the court. It is also unwise because most parenting plans contain non-disparagement clauses discouraging parents from bad-mouthing each other to the children. Even if what you say is true, if it reflects badly on your co-parent, it could weaken your claim for child support enforcement and potentially affect custody in the future.
Parents sometimes refuse visitation to a co-parent who is not current with support. Depriving your children of time with their co-parent because of child support issues could get you into serious trouble. A custody order is separate from a child support order; violating one because your co-parent violates the other is not advisable under any circumstances.
Contact a Ballwin Child Support Enforcement Attorney for Help Collecting Payments
If your co-parent is not meeting their child support obligation, you can turn to the courts for help. A Ballwin child support enforcement lawyer could ask a judge to penalize your co-parent until they pay all the support they owe.
You do not need to pursue legal action alone. A seasoned legal advocate from Jones Family Law Group, LLC, is here to take the lead with your claim and help you collect the payments you and your child need. Call our firm today to get sound advice from a legal professional.