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Melissa A. Featherston

Collecting unpaid child support a big issue in Missouri

No state has a perfect record of collecting unpaid child support or even punishing the non-custodial parents who do not pay. Most readers are probably not aware that Missouri ranks 41st in the nation in terms of collecting child support. Our state is 37th in the country in terms of parents who do not pay. In many cases that the state tracks, the non-custodial parents' financial circumstances are such that they simply cannot make the payments.

While the state tries to enforce child support payments, it often does nothing to help matters. Non-custodial parents who are unemployed or underemployed cannot meet their obligations. If they are jailed for non-payment of child support, they still cannot work and end up accruing even more in payments.

According to one child support prosecutor, almost $2.5 billion in back payments is currently owed in Missouri. Back payments are owed in about 77 percent of the cases that the state is tracking. However, the state only tracks cases in which the custodial parent is receiving some type of government assistance, so the amount of unpaid child support may be even higher.

While there is no easy solution to this problem, there are ways for the non-custodial parent to prevent any type of criminal punishment for non-payment. Our court system will consider child support modification requests. Any non-custodial parent in our state who has trouble meeting child support obligations because of changed circumstances may benefit from learning more about his or her options. Taking this step may help a troubled parent continue to financially support his or her children and avoid back payments.

Source: kspr.com, How some parents cheat the child support system and win, Joanna Small, Feb. 18, 2014

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