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Published: 2008-03-26

Child Support in Missouri



INTRODUCTION

Child support has received a great deal of attention in recent years. In response, the legislature and the courts have made it easier to collect child support. The purpose of this brochure is to answer some of the questions which are frequently asked about creating and enforcing support orders, and to give you an idea of the services which are available to assist you in your efforts.

Child Support in Missouri: Establishing and Enforcing Your Rights was prepared by the Young Lawyers' Section of The Missouri Bar and was generously sponsored by the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association.

Committee: MaryMichael Kelly, Esq., chairman, and special thanks to committee members: Melissa MauerSmith, Esq. and Mark Katz, Esq. from the Family Support Division of the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, Kansas City, Missouri, for their contributions to this publication.

Copyright 1990, The Missouri Bar

ESTABLISHMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT ORDER

What is child support?

Child support is money which an absent parent is ordered to pay on a regular basis to help pay for the costs of raising his or her child.

What is a child support order?

A child support order is a document from a court or Division of Child Support Enforcement (D.C.S.E.). It states 1) when, 2) how often and 3) how much an absent parent is to pay for child support. A child support order is usually included in a divorce decree or paternity judgment.

Am I entitled to obtain a child support order?

If you have legal custody of your child or if you are in the process of getting divorced or if you are separated from your spouse or if you have actual custody of a child for whom paternity has not been legally determined and there is no support order, then you are probably entitled to obtain an order for child support.

What amount will I receive for child support?

The State of Missouri has established guidelines for child support orders. These guidelines consider the needs of the child(ren) and the income of each party, i.e. the custodial and noncustodial parent. Therefore, the amount of child support you receive will be different depending on your individual circumstances.

Who can change or terminate a child support order?

Only the court can change or terminate court ordered child support orders. Under no circumstances can the parties agree between themselves to alter a court order without the court's permission.

In cases where D.C.S.E. has issued an administrative order, D.C.S.E. has the power to modify the child support amount.

How does visitation affect child support?

Visitation is not affected by child support in most cases. Only a court has the power to change a child support order because a custodial parent has failed to allow the court ordered visitation. By the same token, visitation may not be denied because an absent parent is behind in his or her support payments. D.C.S.E. is not allowed to get involved in visitation issues. Any questions you may have on visitation issues should be discussed with your attorney.

In my divorce decree, the court did not order any child support. Can I apply for child support now?

You may be able to obtain an order of child support administratively through the D.C.S.E., depending upon the language in your divorce decree.

Also, you may wish to speak with an attorney about changing the terms of your original decree. In some cases, the court may enter an order of child support if the evidence supports a modification from your original divorce decree.

Who can order child support to be paid?

A child support order can be entered in several ways. A judge may issue a temporary order while a divorce or legal separation is pending, and the order may be finalized at the end of the case. A judge may issue an order

as part of a paternity case. An order may also be entered as part of a juvenile proceeding, or as part of an adult abuse action. If a court has not already ordered child support, the director of the Division of Child Support Enforcement may issue an order in certain cases.

What is the Division of Child Support Enforcement?

The Division of Child Support Enforcement was set up by the Missouri legislature to assist parents in obtaining child support orders and in collecting child support. It is sometimes referred to as a IVD agency, because it was created under Title IVD of the Social Security Act.

In this brochure it will be referred to as D.C.S.E. The services offered by the D.C.S.E. are free of charge.

How can I sign up for the services of D.C.S.E.?

Applications for child support assistance can be obtained at your local D.C.S.E. office. Check your local telephone directory for the Division of Child Support Enforcement located nearest you.

Do I have to meet any financial qualification in order to obtain the assistance of the Division of Child Support Enforcement?

The child support services are available to all custodial parents, regardless of income level.

Can I get child support if I am receiving state aid?

As an A.F.D.C. recipient, you have signed over your rights to child support to the state. The state, through D.C.S.E., will try to establish and enforce a child support order. The money collected will be turned over to the state to pay back the state aid which you have received.

If you are receiving state aid, your caseworker should be able to answer your questions about their policies.

Who keeps track of my child support payments?

In most cases, the Court Administrator is appointed to receive and pay out child support payments. This allows an impartial party to keep track of the support payment history. The Court Administrator is always appointed to monitor payment in orders obtained by D.C.S.E.

When does the child support obligation end?

Usually, child support will terminate at the age of emancipation, which differs in each state. In most cases in Missouri, the obligation to pay child support will end when the child is between the ages of 18-22 years. The actual date of emancipation will depend on whether the child has graduated from high school and is attending some form of higher education. Other factors include whether the child is married, is on active duty in the armed forces, or is selfsupporting.

My spouse and I are separated, but neither one of us has filed for divorce or legal separation. Our children are living with me. What can be done to get child support for my kids?

The Division of Child Support Enforcement can obtain a child support order for a custodial parent through administrative procedures.

The D.C.S.E. does not handle divorces; therefore, you may wish to contact an attorney to discuss your other options.

PATERNITY ISSUES

The father of my child and I are not married. Can I receive child support from him?

Your case can be handled either by D.C.S.E. or your own attorney and would generally be called a paternity case. In a paternity case, once paternity (fatherhood) is established, you may be able to obtain child support from him for your child.

How long does it take to get an order establishing paternity?

If the father of the child is unwilling to cooperate in establishing paternity and it must be proven that he is the father, establishing paternity can be a very long and complex process. Every case is different and the time span varies widely. If, on the other hand, the father legally admits his paternity, the case can proceed fairly quickly.

Will a blood test be done in my paternity case?

Generally in cases where the man denies that he is the father of your child, a very sophisticated series of tests will be done on a specimen of blood from the mother, the child, and the man in order to get a scientific probability of paternity.

ENFORCEMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT ORDER

I already have a child support order, but the absent parent isn't paying. What's the next step?

Once you have a child support order, if the support is not being paid, the next step is to enforce the order. You may try to enforce the order on your own, or you may wish to speak with an attorney or go through D.C.S.E.

How can a child support order be enforced?

Usually, the quickest and most effective ways to enforce a child support order are through wage assignments and garnishments. These are orders to employers, banks and others who may owe money to the absent parent to pay the delinquent child support instead of the absent parent.

Other methods of enforcement include real estate liens, personal property liens and attachments. These methods are usually more timeconsuming and, in the case of attachments, may involve large cash deposits to cover sheriff's fees, storage and court costs.

What is civil contempt of court?

A civil contempt order is one way that a judge can enforce a child support order. In certain circumstances an absent parent may be sent to jail until he or she pays off the child support arrearage. Civil contempt is a very complicated area of law. It is recommended that you consult an attorney or the D.C.S.E. rather than trying to obtain a civil contempt order on your own.

What if the absent parent is not in Missouri?

The fact that an absent parent does not live in this state may make child support collection more difficult. However, all fifty states have passed laws which increase interstate cooperation. You may wish to contact your attorney to discuss the possibility of registering your child support order in the absent parent's state.

D.C.S.E. has the ability to cooperate with IVD agencies in other states through administrative procedures. The agencies may also work together by filing a petition under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA).

What will happen to the child support if I move out of Missouri?

In most cases, child support is not affected if you leave the state. If you have child support collection problems, you should contact the IVD agency in your new location. You should be aware, however, that leaving the state may have implications where custody and visitation are concerned.

If you are thinking of leaving the state, it is recommended that you speak with your attorney to get a full explanation of your rights and responsibilities.

What can I do to help the D.C.S.E. obtain and/or enforce the child support order for my kids?

You can provide all information and required documents with your application. You can keep D.C.S.E. advised of any new information on location or employment of the absent parent.

What about:

Custody ?
Visitation ?
Divorce ?
Abuse ?
Mediation/Arbitration ?

These issues are beyond the scope of this brochure and you may wish to discuss them with your attorney. The D.C.S.E. does not have the authority to deal with these issues.

HELPFUL RESOURCES

Look in your phone book or call directory assistance for the local number on these topics.

For Child Support

- Division of Child Support Enforcement
- Child Support Enforcement

For Divorce, Visitation, Custody, Child-Support

- Attorneys
- County Bar Association
- Legal Aid

For Food Stamps and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC/Welfare)

- Division of Family Services
- Family Services
- Food Stamps

FOR LEGAL ADVICE

If you need help finding a lawyer call The Missouri Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 573/636-3635

In St. Louis City call
314/621-6681

In St. Louis County call
314/889-3073

In Kansas City call
816/221-9472

In Greene County call
417/831-2783

Division of Child Support Enforcement
Western Regional Office
201 Partridge, 4th Floor
Independence, MO 64055
816/325-5820

Division of Child Support Enforcement
Central Office
227 Metro Drive
P.O. Box 1527
Jefferson City, MO 65102-1527
573/751-4301

Division of Child Support Enforcement
Eastern Regional Office
11775 Borman
Suite 220
St. Louis, MO 63146
314/995-9854

The Missouri Bar, P.O. Box 119, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0119