When unmarried parents decide to raise their children separately or when married parents divorce, the parents must have a legally enforceable custody and support order approved by the Kansas City, MO family court. Virtually every custody agreement will include terms for child support one parent will need to pay to the other. The amount paid in child support hinges on the income levels of both parents and the child’s needs. Child support payments typically continue until the child reaches the age of 18, but a support order may have more specific terms for termination of support.
Failure to make child support payments on time and in full can lead to a host of penalties, including asset seizure, wage garnishment, and even incarceration. However, some paying parents may be unable to make their child support payments due to events beyond their control. If you pay child support in Kansas City, MO, you should know your legal options when your life suddenly changes and can no longer meet your obligations.
Potential Penalties for Nonpayment of Child Support
The Kansas City, MO family court system takes nonpayment of child support very seriously. If a parent is owed child support from their coparent, they have the right to file contempt proceedings against the nonpaying parent. The court will review the details of the situation and verify payment history. If the nonpaying parent does not have a reasonable explanation as to why they have not paid child support as required, they may face fines, asset seizure, and various other penalties.
In some cases, parents required to pay child support are unable to make their payments due to forces beyond their control. It is important to note that when situations arise that prevent payment of child support, parents must notify the court as soon as possible. In some cases, parents may be able to work out solutions to one-off issues. However, if a pattern of nonpayment or incomplete payments arises, the parent owed support should consult an attorney as soon as possible.
If a parent required to pay child support has failed or refused to do so without any reasonable explanation, they will likely face contempt of court charges. Contempt applies to any situation in which a party fails or refuses to comply with a legal court order. Penalties for contempt typically fall to the judge’s discretion. Wage garnishment is one of the most implemented penalties for failure to pay child support. The judge may require the employer of the parent required to pay support to automatically deduct child support from the parent’s paychecks. It’s also possible for the judge to seize the nonpaying parent’s assets, or they may order incarceration until the parent agrees to pay what they owe.
Solutions for Parents with Financial Difficulties
Many parents who are required to pay child support find themselves unable to meet these obligations due to a variety of life circumstances. For example, if a paying parent suffers an injury at work and cannot return to work for an extended period, their income is likely to diminish significantly. It’s also possible for a parent to lose their job due to company downsizing or economic instability in their area. Ultimately, there are many ways a parent’s ability to pay child support could be negatively influenced, and there may be little they can do to rectify the situation quickly.
The family court system acknowledges that life can be unpredictable, and a family court order might be rendered unmanageable at no fault of any party involved. The modification system exists for this purpose. Instead of a complex appeal, any party subject to a family court order has the right to request necessary and reasonable modifications to their family court order. If you find yourself unable to make child support payments and your situation does not look like it will improve in the near future, consult an experienced family law attorney about how the modification system may help.
How Do I Request a Modification?
A family court order modification is a relatively straightforward process. The party in need of a change must complete a petition for modification, explaining their desired change and the evidence showing the change is both reasonable and necessary. They must submit this petition to the family court, then the court will set a hearing date. During the modification hearing, both parents have the right to speak about the issue. First, the petitioner will explain their need for modification. The respondent may acknowledge that the request is reasonable and valid and agree with no contest, or they may attempt to fight the petition with contradictory evidence of their own.
If the petitioner is successful, the judge overseeing the modification hearing may adjust their family court order to reflect the necessary changes. When it comes to inability to pay child support, the judge may allow the paying parent to seek new employment or otherwise improve their financial situation before requiring them to resume child support payments. It’s important for all paying parents to remember that modification is only possible if your ability to pay has changed due to forces beyond your control. You cannot simply quit your job and claim you don’t have enough income to afford child support.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Modify Child Support?
It’s technically possible to file a successful petition for child support modification without an attorney. However, it is always best to have legal representation when you intend to change a support order. You may think that your request is reasonable and straightforward only to encounter unexpected resistance from the other parent. It’s also possible for the judge to challenge your logic and demand additional information about your situation. Ultimately, hiring an experienced Kansas City family law attorney is the best way to approach the modification process.
Your attorney can help you draft a compelling petition for modification. They can assist you in gathering the supporting information you need to convince the family court that your requested change is both reasonable and valid. If you find yourself unable to meet your child support obligation for any reason, it’s best to consult an experienced Kansas City, MO family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.