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Unpaid child support: Strategies for Missouri custodial parents

In 2009, the Office of Child Support Enforcement reported that unpaid child support totaled $108 billion nationwide. Those are the most recent statistics, but it's safe to assume that many non-custodial parents are still not meeting their child support obligations. Taking legal steps to enforce a support order may be a last resort for some parents in Missouri, and there are some strategies to try before doing that.

It is important to consider that child custody and child support are separate issues. The custodial parent should never take away visitation rights to the parent who is not paying child support. Not only could this result in legal trouble, but it is counterproductive. If the non-custodial parent remains active and involved in the children's lives, it makes him or her more likely to meet child support obligations.

In many cases, unpaid child support may be due to a change in the non-custodial parent's financial circumstances. In situations like this, the custodial parent should not include child support payments in the budget in order to avoid becoming dependent on those funds. This may provide an opportunity for both parents to discuss what the non-custodial parent is able to pay before the court has to get involved.

Under Missouri law, minor children of divorced parents are entitled to the maximum amount of child support that is determined by the family law court. If circumstances change and the non-custodial parent can't meet his or her obligations, it may be beneficial for both parents to talk over the issue first. However, this is often a delicate issue, and emotions run high. If all else fails, it may be best for each parent to consult with an objective third party as they work through the situation.

Source: US News and World Report, What to Do When Your Ex Won't Pay Child Support, Geoff Williams, Nov. 20, 2013

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