When Wesley Bell became prosecutor of St Louis County several weeks ago, he stated that one of his new policy changes is that the St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s office would no longer criminally charge people if they fail to pay child support. His reason for this is that the non-paying parent is not making any money in jail. And it also might make it harder for them to find a job in the future if they have a felony on their record.
Although I believe that the threat of jail time may have been a good incentive to get someone to pay if they were otherwise not inclined to, I would tend to agree with Mr. Bell. A person’s income potential is drastically reduced by a felony on their record. And if you are locked up for several days, any job that you might have had is probably gone.
So, what can parents that are not receiving their child support do now if the other parent is just refusing to pay? You still have the remedy of “contempt”. This is a civil proceeding where the case goes back in front of the judge that originally dealt with the divorce or custody/support case, and the non-paying parent has to come to court and explain why he or she is not paying support. The judge in the contempt case still has the option to put the non-paying parent in jail. So overall it is similar to a criminal non-support proceeding.
The advantage to the contempt proceeding is that it is much quicker than criminal non-support. In the past, the prosecutor’s office took months, or even years to even get to each non-support case, which had to be at least $5,000.00 behind and there needed to have not been a payment made for at least 6 continuous months. I have seen parents that knew to make a payment of $50.00 every 6 months for years because they knew it would keep them out of jail. If you go the contempt route against the non-paying parent, there is no threshold amount, so if you know the person has money and they haven’t paid you for three months, you could file a Motion for Contempt.
You will need to hire an attorney to file a Motion for Contempt, as it has some very specific procedures that must be followed. You will also need to know where to have the non-paying parent served with the paperwork. It is possible, however, that whatever attorney fees you had to pay to get the case started could be reimbursed to you by the other parent, if your Judgment states that. To further discuss collection of your past due child support or maintenance through a Motion for Contempt, please contact The Law Office of Barbara Graham at [email protected].