Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)

Some Low Cost Ways For Trying To Collect Past Due Child Support

“I can’t believe it. After sending his child support faithfully, my ex-husband’s suddenly unreliable. First, it would be a week or two late, but now he’s three months behind and no longer returning my calls.” This is “Patricia” and her situation is not unique


For Patricia and the thousands like her, there are a couple low-cost options to recover past due support while reestablishing  regular payments for the future. Importantly, the parent owed should act immediately once a pattern of lateness develops. Delaying usually results in a larger unpaid amount that is more difficult to collect, and the “ex” and his/her assets will be harder to find as your information about where to look grows stale.


The most direct option is a wage assignment. Simply pick up the form at the Circuit Clerk’s office at your county courthouse that, once completed, is also filed there. You will provide your former spouse’s name and the name  and address of his/her employer. Once processed, this sets up a permanent garnishment of your “ex’s” wages, which are sent directly to you by the employer. Depending on how much your “ex” earns, you could collect your entire payment each month, plus another ½ month of past due support until repaid. However, federal law restricts the amount collected to no more than 50 to 65% of your former spouse’s disposable income.


This can be a reliable long-term solution…at least for as long as your “ex” remains with the same employer. However, if your “ex” is self-employed or changes jobs frequently, the wage assignment can be less effective.


A more comprehensive approach, and still low cost, is getting help from Missouri’s Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program. Their local telephone number is in the phone book’s state government listings or they can be reached toll-free at 800-859-7999. Any custodial parent living in Missouri and receiving child support can apply, even if the support order is from another state and/or the paying parent is located outside Missouri.


According to Alyson Campbell of Missouri’s Family Support Division, if you provide CSE with up-to-date information on your former spouse, they will immediately contact your “ex” to attempt collection. Further, with accurate information about his/her employer, they can issue an “Income Withholding Order”, which works like the wage assignment discussed earlier.


CSE also issues liens that allow them to seize funds from a delinquent spouse’s bank account, or places liens on their real estate or other personal property. Once the property is sold, the lien provides access to the proceeds in order to settle the support obligation. As a state program, CSE can have various Missouri licenses suspended while the support is past due such as a license to drive, hunt or fish and even professional licenses.


If these efforts are unsuccessful, CSE usually has the option to seek the assistance of the local prosecuting attorney, who can bring either criminal charges or file a contempt motion with the family court that issued the original child support order. If found guilty, the delinquent spouse faces the threat of jail time, a fine, or both.


CSE charges $10/year to process the payments it collects. However, CSE has a large volume of cases and they admit to getting bogged down. According to Ms. Campbell, most of the delinquencies they chase have gone on for a long time and their clients no longer have current information about their “ex”, which extends the timetable significantly.


Next week: How a private attorney might assist more quickly including an option for seizing retirement plan assets to settle a past due support obligation.