Every parent in Missouri has a legal obligation to provide financial support to their children. In most cases, parents voluntarily meet this obligation without issue. When they fail to uphold their duty, criminal charges can be one of the consequences that follow. If a person is more than 12 months behind on their child support payments, they could face felony charges.
If your co-parent has failed to meet their obligations regarding child support, they could face criminal jeopardy in addition to other consequences. However, an attorney working on your behalf might be able to secure the child support you are owed faster by working within the civil legal system.
The team at J. Rench Law Firm, LLC understands how to resolve child support disputes. We are ready to work tirelessly on your behalf to hold your co-parent accountable. Reach out right away for a confidential consultation.
Is Failing to Pay Back Child Support a Misdemeanor or a Felony in Missouri?
Depending on the circumstances, criminal nonsupport could be treated as either a misdemeanor or a felony in Missouri. The nature of this charge and the penalties associated with it depend on a few different factors. Most relevant is the amount of money owed and how long the debt has been delinquent.
The offense of criminal nonsupport is covered by Missouri Statute Section 568.040. According to the statute, it is a crime when “a person commits the offense of nonsupport if he or she knowingly fails to provide adequate support for his or her spouse; a parent commits the offense of nonsupport if such parent knowingly fails to provide adequate support which such parent is legally obligated to provide for his or her child or stepchild who is not otherwise emancipated by operation of law.”
Whether or not criminal nonsupport is a misdemeanor or a felony requires a calculation of the amount owed. A person that has failed to make a child support payment could be found guilty of misdemeanor nonsupport. To rise to the level of felony, a person must have an arrearage amount that is more than the aggregate of twelve monthly payments. Essentially, a person has committed a felony if they are a year or more behind on their child support in most cases.
Penalties for Nonsupport
The severity of the penalties for a criminal nonsupport case depends on whether it is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. For a misdemeanor conviction, a parent could face up to one year in county jail. There is also a maximum fine of $2,000. In a felony case, there is a possibility of up to four years of incarceration in state prison. The offense also carries a maximum fine of up to $10,000.
Other Enforcement Options
Criminal charges are not that common in these situations. Often, the work of an experienced family lawyer is enough to resolve child support disputes and secure what is owed from the non-custodial parent. There are a few ways that an attorney could hold these parents accountable, including:
- Seizing assets. It is possible to seize assets held in bank accounts or held by the government to pay these delinquent child support obligations.
- Withhold earnings. It is also possible to place a garnishment on the wages of a delinquent parent. This could require the employer to withhold some of those wages to satisfy a child support obligation.
- License suspension. The state might also suspend the driving privileges of a non-paying parent.
Talk to the J. Rench Law Firm, LLC About Your Case in Missouri
Before you attempt to resolve a child support dispute on your own, consider discussing your options with legal counsel first. The right attorney could give you the best opportunity to recover what is owed. Often, this can involve negotiating with the other parent or their attorney to resolve a complication.
The J. Rench Law Firm, LLC is here to help you protect your rights as a parent. If you are ready to get started on your case, we look forward to discussing your options. Contact us today for a private consultation.
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