Criminal Nonsupport

The failure of a parent to support a minor child that the parent is legally obligated to support is a crime in the State of Missouri. Nonsupport may be charged as a felony if the obligated parent fails to pay six months within a twelve-month period or has accumulated an arrearage in excess of five thousand dollars. The obligated parent may have a defense to the charge if they can show good cause as to why support was not provided. Good cause may be illness, incapacitation or incarceration.

Filing a Charge

The purpose in filing a criminal nonsupport charge, like any other criminal charge, is to punish the offending party. The purpose is not to force the non-custodial parent to comply with the court order, as it is in civil contempt proceedings. The obligated parent is afforded all of the rights guaranteed to any other criminal defendant.

If it is determined that criminal charges are the appropriate action to take, the custodial parent will receive an informational letter, a questionnaire to fill out and a criminal complaint form that must be signed and returned to this office. The complaint is then filed with the court and, in the filing of a felony, a warrant is issued for the arrest of the obligated parent. After the arrest of the obligated parent, the custodial parent may be required to appear at the court hearings and possibly given a deposition.

Again, the purpose of filing criminal charges is to punish the individual who broke the law and not collect money from them.