Most parents in Missouri and across the country want to do what is best for their families. Unfortunately, in some situations, a parent may find him or herself struggling to make child support payments. While in the past this inability could have resulted in prosecution for those living in St. Louis County, recent changes could change how this issue is addressed.
Under the past policy, those who failed to make child support payments were prosecuted criminally. Not only could a conviction result in jail time or probation, it was also considered a felony on the person’s record. The new county prosecutor argues that a person in jail cannot earn money to support a child, and a felony conviction could ultimately make it more difficult for the parent to find a job.
The prosecutor proposes considering unpaid child support cases as a civil matter. By making this change, he claims, judges can still use incarceration for worst-case scenarios; however, it is not considered a felony, potentially preventing the complications for finding employment for those convicted of felonies. This change, he claims, brings county policy in line with how this issue is treated in the majority of the state. Last year, the county reportedly prosecuted more than 530 cases related to child support nonpayment while the average for other Missouri counties was around 12; for the City of St. Louis, the number was less than 40.
Unfortunately, even when parents are committed to providing child support to their children in St. Louis, certain circumstances — such as an illness, injury or lost job — can reduce their ability to do so. Though an attorney can help these parents request a modification, it is sometimes difficult to make changes and arrearages can occur in the meantime. While this proposed change is controversial, the country prosecutor argues that it could actually increase family stability.