Failing to pay child support for an extended period of time may result in criminal charges, ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony.
In a recent Western District of Missouri case, a father’s felony criminal conviction was upheld for failing to pay child support. The father was ordered by a court to make monthly child support payments following his divorce. However, from 2014-2016, the father never paid any child support, falling $34,187 in arrears. The father claimed to be unable to work during that time, but no evidence of temporary disability payments from his union was introduced and he had not been awarded social security disability payments at the time of trial.
R.S.Mo. § 568.040 creates a criminal action against parents who fail to pay child support in Missouri. While regularly a misdemeanor, if the paying parent is twelve or more months behind the charge can be a class E felony. There is a defense of “good cause,” in which the paying parent shows a valid reason for their inability to pay, but this defense is not available if the paying parent has purposefully maintained their inability to pay child support. If a parent has been fired or laid off, being unsuccessful to find a job in their former career field does not satisfy a “good cause” defense. In Kansas, K.S.A. § 20-1204a holds paying parents in indirect contempt for failing to pay child support. If child support is behind by six months or more, a Kansas court may restrict the parent’s driver’s license until they have made all child support payments.
If you’re concerned about paying or receiving child support, contact our office for a consultation.