Opinion: Missouri child support reform & how current laws are destroying lives.

In Missouri, child support laws leave parents with no driver’s license and in jail for a few months at a time, keeping child support from being paid.

Child support is essential. I am not disputing the importance of supporting your children. However, the current system sets non-custodial parents up for failure costing taxpayers money and putting a strain on police departments, jails, prisons, and the courts. It is hard to understand why everyone is blind to the consequences of Missouri Child Support Laws.

Many custodial parents are without child support or very little child support. People work several jobs to make ends meet while the other parent lives with no responsibilities. These people are incredible, but this is not your story.

There is a whole other side of the coin that many people choose to ignore. A parent depleted of options and hope by Child Support Enforcement. The parent everyone silently judges, who may appear to be a deadbeat. In and out of jail. Unable to hold a job. Always in court, no home, no car. You can’t always judge a book by its cover. Many of these parents were forced into this lifestyle by broken systems and see no future.

Where did child support originate?

The idea of child support began in 1975 when our country was very different.

Unwed mothers were not as prevalent as today. The norm was a family unit where a man worked and a woman stayed home with the kids. The idea was to provide for a family so that the children did not have to suffer a lifestyle change when their parents divorced.

Today men and women are not always married, and some are very young when they become parents. People are paying for a lifestyle they will never live, even if they were married.

It is because it’s a lifestyle they cannot afford. Today some couples never get married, and both parents work.

Many custodial parents live with family and are not responsible for house payments and utilities. Others are letting their parents raise their kids while collecting child support.

How Child Support arrears are determined when a case is opened.

In some cases, a woman gets pregnant and doesn’t even tell the father until years later when her current relationship ends. Suddenly, Child Support Enforcement is summoning you for a DNA test and hitting you with back child support.

You don’t need much to file a child support case in Missouri. You provide child support enforcement a date when the relationship ended, and you can backdate the child support as far as you want.

The custodial parent is open to giving child support enforcement any number they deem realistic however it is rarely practical. The non-custodial parent’s responsibility is to prove any money paid to the custodial parent in the past. If you are new at this and not aware of the rules, you may find yourself in big trouble.

You must have a receipt for every dollar given to the custodial parent previous to the order. If you do not have receipts, the money spent is not applicable. Buying the child any items, groceries, or paying bills for the other parent, does not count as child support.

You will repay the child support you thought you paid if you do not produce a receipt for every payment made with money to the other parent.

The only mercy you can receive is if the custodial parent is honest, but sadly, many people are not. If the custodial parent denies receiving money, there is absolutely nothing you can do without a receipt. People become very vindictive and selfish after breakups.

I have heard countless stories of people’s lives destroyed this way. Also, the back child support is put on your credit report once the amount is determined.

Getting down to the raw numbers of low-income noncustodial parents.

Following is an example of the reality of child support for a low-income n/c (non-custodial parent). Imagine if this was your situation; what would you do?

There are always acceptions to the rules in every case. We often hear about deadbeat dads and parents who don’t support their kids. We don’t hear about the parents with destroyed lives who want to support their children but give up. Suffering a job loss or becoming sick causes the debt to grow.

Up to 50% of your disposable earnings may be garnished to pay child support if you’re currently supporting a spouse or a child who isn’t the subject of the order. If you aren’t supporting a spouse or child, up to 60% of your earnings may be taken. An additional 5% may be taken if you’re more than 12 weeks in arrears.

Missouri Child Support Law

If a parent is ordered to pay $400.00 a month for child support and falls behind, things can get serious quickly.

For this example, we will examine the result of a four-month layoff on an n/c parent in which they accrued arrears in child support:

S.Pogue/Example Child Support Chart

Now consider monthly expenses:

  • $700 month/rent
  • $150 month/utilities
  • $300 month/fuel

Total – $1,150.00

Three monthly expenses are $240 over your monthly payroll without anything else added.

Food, auto maintenance, car payment, auto insurance, toiletries, household goods, phone expense, the list goes on and on.

Now imagine if the custodial parent of your child is receiving:

  • Free apartment
  • Food stamps
  • Energy assistance
  • Health insurance
  • WIC

Remember, the custodial parent doesn’t have to show they earn income. They will not be held accountable and lose driving privileges, nor will they be arrested. The courts will not fault them for being poor. Instead, they will help get them on their feet.

Government programs may require the custodial parent to agree to file a case against you to receive benefits.

CarolineHernandez/Unsplash Child support laws in Missouri strain relationships in families.

Next, you lose your driving privileges.

Imagine losing your job; you fall further and further behind on child support. The next step is getting your license suspended and losing your fishing license.

  • You cannot legally drive and pick up your child.
  • You cannot legally drive to work, and if your job requires a valid license, you lose your job.
  • Continuing to drive will get you a “Driving While Suspended.”
  • You have court dates, expenses, fines, and legal fees.
  • You can no longer carry a fishing license.

Going to jail every couple of months.

After losing your license, you become even more behind in child support. The next repercussion for non-custodial back child support is jail time.

Criminal prosecution is possible if a paying parent stops paying child support for six months within a twelve-month duration. Aggregate delinquency of more than $5,000 is a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison. Criminal nonsupport charges penalize the failure to pay, but they do not lead to a new order for payment, unlike a civil contempt order.

Missouri child support law

  • One hundred eighty days is a typical non-payment sentence in Jefferson County.
  • People owing child support are held in jail from 6 weeks to 180 days.

If you get arrested driving, your vehicle will get towed to impound. By the time you are released, the impound charges make it impossible to recover your car. You come home to find eviction notices for non-payment of rent, utilities shut off, the car is gone, and your job too. No business will keep you if you are constantly going to jail for weeks at a time.

What happens next?

You fall further and further behind in child support. Your warrants and court costs go unpaid. You rebuild your life. You find a place to live, job, car, and you’re close to making a child support payment, and you are arrested and thrown in jail to lose it all again. It is an endless cycle.

The next step in the child support nightmare is four years in prison. Putting a parent in jail because they are suffering financial difficulties is unacceptable. How do the courts expect child support to get paid?

Child Support Enforcement Law Destroys Lives

Non-custodial parents who cannot pay the amounts ordered slowly enter a world of debt and hopelessness.

Suicide and addiction result from the unfixable situation. It causes children and non-custodial parents to experience strained relationships.

Interfering with jobs, child support laws in Missouri produces the opposite results intended. Laws are not fair and are dangerously close to being unconstitutional and against human rights.

Change is pertinent. Children are suffering. Parents are not only unable to survive on their own after Child Support Enforcement is involved in their lives, but they are unable to support the child when it is time for their visitation.

Supporting a child is always important. The government stepping in and destroying lives and throwing people behind bars who experience financial difficulties is unacceptable.

It opens the door for elevated job loss rates and situations where there is no way out.

Missouri child support laws are a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Child Support Enforcement is a waste of taxpayers’ dollars in a broken system. It wastes the judicial system and police enforcement time and money and contributes to overpopulated jails and prisons.

What about the children?

Finally, the effect the whole process has on the children is the biggest disappointment. This system keeps parents away from their children. How is it fair to tell a child they won’t be able to see their mommy or daddy for 180 days because they are in jail for not paying child support?

It is very unhealthy for the children involved. It’s easy to turn your head if you are financially stable and say it doesn’t affect you, but this situation affects society.

There are stories of parents running from police on routine traffic stops. They fear being locked up for back child support and are shot and killed by police—parents who were scared of being arrested again.

There is another way. Other states are implementing proactive programs that build parents up. The programs show success rates of paid child support and happy families.

Next time you judge someone based on their non-payment of child support, I hope you remember there are two sides to every story.

Your government can’t speak for you if they are unaware of your opinion.

Change comes from involvement, and involvement is easier than you think.

Click this link to email your senator your thoughts on current Missouri child support laws.

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