In Part I of our blog on The Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement (Division) we discussed their role in establishing orders of paternity and child support and the importance of legal representation in this process. In Part II we discuss the tools that the Division uses to enforce support orders and the how these efforts can often be effective but at other times potentially counterproductive when the Division is ineffective for the receiving parent, incorrect in their information or overzealous in their punitive efforts.
Our Missouri statutes give the Division many powerful tools to enforce child support orders and to collect child support on behalf of many families who desperately need this financial assistance to meet their children’s needs. With the assistance of local Prosecuting Attorney Offices these tools include both criminal (both felony and misdemeanor charges) and civil (contempt). Further, the Division’s power includes the ability to garnish wages and bank accounts, intercept tax refunds and unemployment benefits and to suspend both drivers’ licenses and professional licenses (i.e. medical, legal and financial). These efforts can be vital in the life of a Missouri child.
Yet, most if not all experienced Missouri family law attorneys are very familiar with both the positive results that can come from the Division’s efforts to collect child support and the frustration expressed by their clients, regarding the Division. This frustration can come from both those who are entitled to receive child support and those who are under a court order to pay child support.
For those parents who are entitled to receive child support the most common complaints include that despite the fact that my Ex owes me thousands of dollars, the Division seems non-responsive to my situation; or I recently spoke to a caseworker who told me what was going to be done to help me collect child support, but this week I spoke to a different caseworker, and it seems that I am starting all over again. How can you help me collect child support?
For those parents who are ordered to pay child support, the most common theme of the complaints include the Division claims I owe an incorrect child support debt and in now threatening to garnish my wages, intercept my tax refund or suspend my driver’s license; In the last month I have received two different letters from the Division claiming I am behind in my child support in two different amounts; and/or I lost my job and fell three months behind in my child support and now the Division is going to suspend my driver’s license unless I become current, but how can I find work if I can’t drive?; How can you help me fix these problems?
With any large bureaucratic body like the Division, mistakes and even misguided actions can take place. Further, the failure to communicate information within a large agency like the Division or between the Division and other agencies can lead to these frustrations.
In circumstances described in this blog, the primary solution for parents is the retention of an experienced Missouri family law attorney, who can take action through the family court to assist in the collection of child support through independent actions including the filing of a Motion for Contempt and the garnishment of funds. Or on behalf of the paying parent, that same attorney can take steps to assist in closely examining the actions of the Division including, but not limited to, the filing of a motion to determine if past due child support is due and in what amount, to present evidence of valid personal circumstances which may make the payment of current child support difficult if not impossible, the modification of the child support amount, and actions to stay administrative suspension of licenses and the intercept of tax refunds, when appropriate. In almost all cases, a properly filed action in the local family court, will lead to an order or judgment whose authority supersedes the actions of the Division taken outside of the family court.
If you have questions about your particular circumstances as it related to the Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement, or any family law matter, you are welcome to contact our office today for a free consultation.