Missouri Child Support FAQs by Penny J. Umstattd-Cope
The following has been provided to the public by the Missouri Bar:
The purpose of this pamphlet is to answer some of the questions frequently asked about obtaining 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: Mary Michael Kelly, Esq., chairman, and special thanks to committee members: Melissa Mauer Smith, 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 that a non-custodial 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 a parent is to pay for child support. A child support order is usually included in a divorce judgment or paternity judgment.
Am I entitled to obtain a child support order?
If you have physical custody of your child rather than legal custody, 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 non?custodial parent, and costs for child care and health insurance. 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 do visitation and joint custody affect child support?
Child support is not affected by visitation in most cases. Only a court can change a child support order because a custodial parent has not allowed the court ordered visitation. By the same token, visitation cannot be denied because a parent is behind in child 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 or through the court depending on the language in your divorce decree and the circumstances.
Also, you may wish to speak with an attorney about changing the terms of your original decree. In some cases, the court may change an order of child support if the evidence supports a modification.
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 Missouri legislature set up the Division of Child Support Enforcement to assist parents in obtaining child support orders and in collecting child support. It is sometimes referred to as a IV?D agency, because it was created under Title IV?D of the Social Security Act.
In this pamphlet it will be referred to as D.C.S.E. The services offered by the D.C.S.E. are free.
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 office 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 all cases, child support payments are tracked through the Family Support Payment Center (FASTPAC).
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 self?supporting.
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.
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 long 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 a man denies that he is the father of your child, the alleged father is entitled to request a DNA genetic parentage test to determine if he is the biological father. Sampling may be obtained by blood or buccal (cheek) swab. Today the vast majority of testing is performed using buccal cells, rather than blood. This technique is approved by the paternity testing accreditation organization, the American Association of Blood Banks.
ENFORCEMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT ORDER
I already have a child support order, but the other 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 time?consuming 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 50 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 IV?D 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 IV?D 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.
Custody? Visitation? Divorce? Abuse? Mediation/Arbitration?
These issues are beyond the scope of this pamphlet 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.
Penny J. Umstattd-Cope
Recently the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, handed down its decision in State v. Salazar. The defendant had appealed his conviction for criminal nonsupport based upon: violation of his due process rights by the trial court refusing to order blood testing, by the responsibility to pay child support being based upon an administrative order of paternity as opposed to a court determination, and that his 28-day sentence amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in that the sentence is disproportionate to the wrongful act he allegedly committed.
During the defendant's marriage his wife became pregnant but both admitted that the child was not the defendant's. His name was put on the birth certificate due to the insistence of a hospital clerk since they were still married at the time of the birth. Subsequently the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) served its "Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility" on the defendant and he and the mother contested the paternity. After the defendant's failure to show at the hearing a default decision and order was entered finding the defendant to be the father of the child and ordered him to pay child support. Defendant did not seek a judicial review of the order and he did not pay the child support. The defendant was charged with criminal nonsupport. After a trial to the judge the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to 28 days in the county jail.
The appellate court found that the defendant's due process rights were not violated by the trial court's failure to order DNA testing because the biological paternity is not a required element of proof in a criminal nonsupport case. Further, his rights were not violated because it was based upon an administrative order rather than a court order. An administrative order of paternity is given the same force and effect as those made in a court. The fact that the defendant failed to request judicial review of the administrative order does not change this. The appellate court also found that the 28-day sentence was not "cruel and unusual punishment" when the defendant could have received a jail sentence of up to one year. The judgment of the trial court was affirmed.
This is a good case to show that you need to appear at all hearings when directed and that the proper procedures need to be followed such as the judicial review process when dissatisfied with an administrative order. It is also a good case to show that you should not let your name be added to a birth certificate if you contest the paternity of the child.
Source: State v. Salazar, WD65099, (Mo. App. W.D. 02/13/2007).Penny J. Umstattd-Cope
The Umstattd-Cope Law Firm, LLC
610 S. Pearl Avenue, Suite A
Joplin, MO 64801
Senator Koster has sponsored proposed legislation that, if passed and signed by the governor, will repeal several statutes in Chapter 454 and enact others in lieu thereof. SB 493 (identical to HB 472) will affect child support, spousal support (maintenance/alimony), and paternity. These new enactments will be known as the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. When two states are involved in a child support issue, the Act will determine the jurisdiction and power of the courts in the different states and which state's law will be applied. It further establishes rules requiring every state to defer to child support orders entered by the courts of the child's home state; the place where the order was originally entered holds continuing exclusive jurisdiction; and only the law of that state can be applied to requests to modify the order of child support, unless the original tribunal loses the continuing exclusive jurisdiction.
The Act also changes provisions relating to maintenance/alimony and paternity. One of the issues this proposal changes is how an acknowledgment of paternity will be used as evidence. Right now a male can acknowledge paternity by registering with the Putative Father Registry. The male also registers with the Registry if he believes he is the biological father of a child but doesn't know for certain. The registration can be revoked. Right now this registration can only be used as evidence in a trial if the male has not revoked his registration. Under this proposed Act, any certified copy of a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity may be admissible to establish parentage of a child. This means that whether or not the registration has been revoked, it can be used against the male later if he contests the paternity of the child named in the Registry. This may not mean a lot if the genetic tests come back conclusively finding that the male is not the father. It may mean a lot if the tests are not so conclusive. This will probably be a rare case but I can see it happening if the biological father of the child and the male alleged to be the father are related. I have had one case where the biological father of the child could have been one of two brothers. So it is possible to have a situation where I would not want the Registry acknowledgment to be used as evidence against a client if he is denying paternity after learning facts that would lead him to believe he is not the biological father of the child.
The effective date of this Act will be August 28, 2007 if passed and signed by the governor. To read the full text of this proposed Act, go to Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.Penny J. Umstattd-Cope
The Umstattd-Cope Law Firm, LLC
610 S. Pearl Avenue, Suite A
Joplin, MO 64801