Child Support Enforcement
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Child Support Division generally has authority over four types of cases: 1) the establishment of paternity for children who are born out of wedlock and the establishment of a child support order for the support of that child; 2) enforcement of existing child support orders; 3) initiating and responding to Uniform Interstate Family Support Act cases; 4) other requests made by the State of Missouri Family Support Division (FSD).
In all the above cases, the client of this office is always the State of Missouri and this office cannot proceed without a referral from the Missouri Department of Social Services Family Support Division (FSD).
How Child Support is Handled in Missouri
The child support enforcement program in Missouri is frequently referred to as the IV-D program as it originates from Title IVD of the Social Security Act. There are two main agencies that handle child support in Missouri; they are the Family Support Division (FSD) and County Prosecutor’s Offices across the state.
FSD is the agency that initially handles all the cases. If they can adequately resolve the matter the case remains with that agency. If they cannot adequately resolve the issue they refer the case to the appropriate Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. To open a child support case, contact FSD at 855-373-4636.
Once FSD refers the case to the Prosecutor, the law sets out specific time frames for the case to be resolved. Note: The Prosecuting Attorney does not have the authority to act until FSD makes a case referral.
IMPORTANT: A frequent issue that arises is that child support continues if the child goes to college. We have included a link to a statute that concerns child support, its continuation, and/or termination. The link is www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C400-499/4520000340.HTM . Please talk with your attorney regarding how you can comply with the relevant statutes. If you do not conform to the law, you may not qualify for child support from the other party. We have also included two other links that may be useful for your review; they are www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/c452.htm and www.dor.mo.gov/links.htm .
PLEASE BE AWARE THAT WE REPRESENT THE STATE OF MISSOURI AND ARE NOT YOUR ATTORNEY. WE WILL PURSUE YOUR CASE BUT OUR CLIENT IS THE STATE OF MISSOURI WHOSE INTERESTS MAY NOT ALWAYS COINCIDE WITH YOUR DESIRES. THAT IS NOT OUR DECISION BUT IS A STATUTORY REQUIREMENT GIVEN TO US BY THE STATE OF MISSOURI.
Paternity Actions: Once a paternity action is referred to the Prosecutor, a Petition for Declaration of Paternity is filed with the court. Genetic testing of the parties is performed to determine if a named party is the father of the child. The laboratory performs tests until they exclude the person as the Father or until the results show at least a 98% probability that he is the Father. If the results of the genetic testing establish that an alleged father has a probability of being the Father then a hearing is held to obtain a Judgment/Court Order establishing paternity and an attempt will be made to establish a child support order for the support of the child. The amount of time required to establish paternity can vary depending on whether the party disputes that he is the father of the child or not. Most challenged paternity actions are resolved within twelve months. Many can be resolved in as little as four months.
Civil: A Motion for Contempt against the non-paying party is filed in the court to begin an enforcement action. The person that is not paying is then served by the sheriff with the Motion for Contempt and a Order to Show Cause why they should not be held in contempt. The non-paying party is directed to appear in court on a certain date. At this initial appearance, the prosecutor will make an attempt to reach an agreement with the non-paying party. This agreement usually involves a payment plan. If an agreement is made the case will be continued so the court can monitor the party’s compliance with the agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached the case is set for a hearing, which is like a trial. At the hearing the Prosecutor’s Office has to prove the following: 1) that there was an order; 2) that the non-paying party knew of the order; 3) that the non-paying party is not paying as directed by the order. The non-paying party then must show that they had good cause for not paying as directed by the order. If the non-paying party fails to establish good cause, the Judge may find the non-paying party to be in contempt of court and can order the non-paying party be committed to the county jail until such time as they purge themselves of the contempt by paying a specific amount of money set by the court. This payment generally is paid to the custodial parent.
Criminal: This can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor carries a sentence of up to one year in the Marion County Jail and/or a fine up to One Thousand Dollars ($1,000). A felony carries a sentence of up to five years in the Department of Corrections and/or a fine of up to Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000).
Both civil and criminal actions have their own unique pluses and minuses and we will determine which action would be the most appropriate in any case referred to this office.
Modifications: The Office of the Prosecuting Attorney does not have authority to litigate modification cases. The Family Support Division (FSD) does handle modifications. They generally require that the order be more than three years old and that the Missouri Child Support Guidelines indicates that there would be a twenty per cent change in the child support amount. In certain circumstances, FSD may seek a modification of a court order sooner than three years, although the criterion is stringent. You should be aware that if you ask to either increase or decrease the child support amount, if the child support guidelines show the opposite to be true, FSD will follow the guidelines.
Visitation and custody: Neither FSD nor the Prosecutor’s Office has the authority to litigate these issues. You need to seek the representation of a private attorney.
Child Support and Visitation: If you feel the custodial parent has denied you your visitation rights and you want to stop paying your child support, you still are under a duty to pay your court ordered child support until the court modifies that ordered amount. You need to seek the representation of a private attorney.