If you are behind on your child support in Missouri, the courts have a number of ways to persuade you to pay. The most extreme of these options is pursuing criminal charges against you for nonpayment. When it comes to large unpaid back child support bills, these criminal charges are treated as a felony.
How much back child support is a felony in Missouri? You could be charged with a felony if you own $5,000 or more. However, the state will often pursue other options first before moving on to criminal charges.
Before you find yourself behind bars, it is a good idea to discuss your options with a child support attorney. In many cases, it could be possible to negotiate an outcome that prevents you from facing criminal charges. Talk to the team at J. Rench Law Firm, LLC right away for a free consultation.
Understanding Criminal Nonsupport in Missouri
When it comes to the failure to pay your child’s support, the most severe consequences involve an arrest and prosecution for criminal nonsupport. This offense targets non-custodial parents who are significantly behind on their child support obligation. Criminal nonsupport is governed by Missouri Statute 568.040.
It is possible for the police to arrest you for nonsupport if you stop paying for six months during the course of a twelve-month period. Typically, this offense is treated as a misdemeanor that carries a maximum of one year in prison.
However, it is possible for criminal nonsupport to be charged as a felony in Missouri. Under the statute, you could face a felony charge for criminal nonsupport if you owe more than $5,000 in support payments.
Jail Time for Contempt of Court
Criminal nonsupport is not the only way you could face jail time due to unpaid support amounts. A person that fails to uphold their court-ordered obligation to pay child support could be found in contempt of court by a judge. Contempt of court—typically referred to as contempt—is a power that judges have to enforce the terms of their orders. It is a finding by a judge that a person disobeyed a court order or otherwise disrupted the business of the court.
Every child support case involves an order from the court for one parent to pay another. When you fail to make these payments, you are in violation of a court order. If the judge decides that your failure to pay was “willful disobedience of any process or order lawfully issued or made” by the court, you could be fined or even jailed. These consequences are different than a criminal charge of nonsupport.
Judges rarely find a person in contempt as soon as they get behind on their child support payments. Typically, the court will order that person to appear in court and explain why they are behind. Usually, the court and the parties reach an agreement to address the arrearage that does not involve incarceration. However, failing to show up to these hearings at all will likely result in an arrest warrant.
What Else Can Happen if you Don’t Pay Child Support in Missouri?
There are other things that happen if you don’t pay child support. The court can take a number of efforts to enforce your obligation outside of facing criminal charges. Some of these options include:
- Withholding earnings
- Seizing tax refunds
- Seizing lottery winnings
- Driver’s license suspension
Talk to an Attorney About Unpaid Child Support Obligations in Missouri
If you are behind on your child support, now is no time to panic. While criminal charges are possible in this situation, they are unlikely if you make an honest effort to meet your obligation. Criminal charges are most likely in cases where your arrearage is high and you do not make an effort to pay it back.
With the right attorney, you could resolve your back child support issues without facing criminal consequences. If you are ready to put your issues behind you, reach out to J. Rench Law Firm, LLC right away for your free consultation.
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