Penalties for the Person Owing a Large Child Support Arrears Amount in the State of Missouri

Missouri's Division of Child Support Enforcement establishes and enforces child support orders. When a noncustodial parent owes back child support, the amount is "in arrears." Penalties for child support in arrears depend on the amount due and the reasons for not paying. The consequences for failing to pay court-ordered child support vary by case and as well as state and federal laws.


Missouri follows federal laws regarding wage garnishment for support orders. As of 2011, up to 50 percent of your disposable earnings may be garnished for child support if you currently support another spouse or child. Wage garnishment of up to 60 percent applies to individuals without other support obligations. If you are more than 12 weeks in arrears, garnishment may increase by an additional 5 percent. Disposable earnings include income after taxes, Social Security and applicable state retirement deductions. Unemployment compensation, worker's compensation, Social Security benefits and other state or federal benefits may be garnished for child support.

Other Ways to Collect

The courts may levy your bank account, place liens on your property and in some cases seize assets for back child support. Additionally, if you owe more than $150 in past-due child support, the state may intercept federal or state income tax refunds. If you filed a joint income tax return, your spouse has six months to claim her share of the return.

Other Penalties

Missouri may suspend your driver’s license for failing to pay child support. If you are more than $2,500 in arrears, the U.S. Department of State may deny you a passport. If you relocate out of Missouri, the child support division works with other the state's agency to collect support and enforce penalties. Additionally, the child support agency may report past-due child support orders to credit bureaus, potentially deterring future lending.

Civil and Criminal Enforcement

Generally, initial court proceedings for failure to pay child support begin with a civil hearing. During a civil hearing, the court considers both arguments and attempts to mediate a repayment plan. If the noncustodial parent fails to show "good cause" as to why he cannot pay or fails to reply or attend a court summons, the judge may find him in contempt of court. Prosecutors may pursue criminal charges resulting in felony or misdemeanor sentencing. Contempt, misdemeanor or felony charges may result in fines, jail time or both.