How Can I Collect Back Child Support Without Paying for a Lawyer?

collect back child support

You recently receive a divorce or child custody judgment that awards you monthly child support. Months go by but the other parent fails to pay child support as ordered. Your lawyer told you at the end of the case to keep track of all payments received so you know whether they are paid on time and in full each month. You just finished paying for your prior case and don’t feel it’s right for you to have to pay a lawyer to collect money owed to you. What can you do? If you find yourself in this situation, the Missouri Department of Social Services’ Family Support Division (FSD) will handle your issue free of charge.

What is the Missouri Department of Social Services’ Family Support Division (FSD)?

The Missouri Family Support Division is a state-administered agency responsible by law for the administration of a number of programs and services including child support. The Child Support program is responsible for locating parents, establishing paternity, establishing child and medical support orders, monitoring and enforcing compliance with child and medical support orders, reviewing and initiating modification of support orders, and distributing support collections. While FSD didn’t participate in your divorce or child custody case, it can manage child support and child support related issues using administrative, non-judicial processes. In this situation, where you are not receiving the child support awarded to you, FSD can help with reviewing, enforcing, and collecting child support payments. If the other parent has moved outside of Missouri, FSD can also contact a similar state agency in the state where the other parent is now living to ensure the payment and receipt of your child support payments. They can even enforce the other parent’s obligations in terms of providing your child with medical insurance.

That Sounds Great but What Does FSD Do to Collect Unpaid Child Support?

Usually, the first option is for FSD to issue an income withholding order to the other parent’s employer. Basically, if a paying parent falls behind in child support by 30 days or more, his or her income is subject to withholding since monthly child support was not paid as ordered. If the paying parent is unemployed, FSD can also legally withhold that parent’s workers’ compensation benefits (if applicable) or unemployment benefits (if applicable) and then apply those funds to the past due child support balance.

If the child support debt is growing and no payments are coming in, then the second option for FSD is to report the paying parent’s child support debt to the major credit reporting agencies. As a result, the paying parent is prevented from securing financing unless they satisfy the child support balance due and owed.

If the paying parent owns real estate or a motor vehicle, then FSD can proceed to file a lien on that property in an effort to collect back child support. The lien would remain on the property until the child support debt is paid in full or the property is sold allowing FSD to collect from the sale proceeds. If no property exists but the paying parent has a bank account, then FSD may find it appropriate to file a levy against that parent’s account(s) to collect back child support. 

FSD can also suspend a paying parent’s driver’s license as well as their professional, occupational, and recreational licenses. The suspension would remain in effect until the child support balance was paid in full or the paying parent reached a written agreement with FSD for payment in exchange for the lifting of the suspension.

In some counties, FSD through the local prosecuting attorney or attorney general’s office may file a contempt motion against a paying parent who has not met their child support obligation. The motion results in the issuance of a Show Cause Order that is served on the paying parent compelling the parent to appear in Court and explained why child support has not been paid as ordered. The judge assigned to the case then has the ability to punish the paying parent until that parent complies with payment of the monthly child support obligation.

As a last resort, FSD can refer a child support debt to the local prosecuting attorney for criminal prosecution. The goal of that proceeding is not for the paying parent to have a conviction on his or her record. Rather, it is to place the paying parent on probation for a term so payments can be monitored and enforced by the Court as a condition of probation.

Unpaid child support is a serious matter and the Missouri Family Support Division will aggressively pursue reported cases of unpaid child support. So, if you are a parent who is not receiving monthly child support as ordered and don’t want to incur more attorney fees, contact FSD to discuss your situation and see how FSD can help.