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What is child support?

Child support is the collection of payments from parents who don’t have full custody to support a child’s upbringing. The Missouri Department of Social Services’ Family Support Division administers the state’s child support program. Under state law, every child is entitled to financial support from both parents, regardless of their marital status.

Why was child support created?

Child support laws were enacted to offset the economic hardships of divorce and desertion, particularly among mothers. Child support has been shown to reduce poverty and the need for government assistance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

How do you receive child support?

State and federal child support agencies can help track down a parent and establish their paternity or maternity. An agreement for support can be finalized through a divorce decree, court order or an application with the state. Some families have informal arrangements.

How much is paid in child support?

Most child support is determined as a share of the noncustodial parent’s monthly net income, typically about 25 percent for one child. If the parent doesn’t work, it may be determined by the parent’s earning potential. The average is about $500 monthly, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state processes most child support payments, which involved more than $683 million in 2017, according to the Department of Social Services.

Who pays child support?

Nationwide, nearly 6 million parents pay (91 percent are fathers). Only 44 percent of custodial parents received their full payments in 2015. More than 30 percent received no payments, according to a Census report.

What if a parent doesn’t pay?

If a parent fails to pay child support, the state agency can: withhold wages, benefits, income tax refunds and lottery winnings; file credit bureau reports; place liens on property; suspend drivers and professional licenses; and refer to prosecutors for civil or criminal charges.

Prosecutors can order a hearing when a nonpayment case is referred to them. The parent must appear in court, and the judge typically creates a payment plan.

Parents who still don’t pay can face criminal charges. Nonpayment for more than 12 months may be charged as a felony in Missouri. If found guilty, the sentence can range from probation to four years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000.

How many people are charged with failure to pay child support?

In St. Louis County in 2018, 633 people were charged with a felony for failing to pay. Statewide, 1,745 people were charged with the felony in 2017, the 10th most common charge that year.

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