Missouri could try a new experiment; a specialized court to deal with child support.

Drug Courts have worked. Now, the state will try Child Support Enforcement Courts.

"What we want to do is reconnect the fathers with their children and urge them to pay their support obligation properly," House sponsor Tim Jones, a state representative from Eureka, told colleagues during floor debate on SCS SB 140 .

Jones stated that the current system simply isn’t working and the state needs to try something new. Jones says the system doesn’t work now, because a father can’t pay child support if thrown in prison and, once thrown in prison, a father has an even more difficult time landing a job and financially supporting his children.

Rep. Michael Frame (D-Eureka) told Jones parents who have won custody have told him they have lost much more when the other parent has been imprisoned.

"They sure can’t pay while they are in jail and once they come out they will be limited in paying," Frame said.

Jones responded that the current system has become the new version of debtor’s prison. Jones added that as with debtor’s prison, the person thrown in prison can’t repay the debt which keeps growing.

Under the system, circuit courts in Missouri would be allowed to set up the special courts. Parents who fall behind in child support could be referred by a court to education, job training, even drug treatment. Once the person completes the court-assignment or resumes support payments, charges could be dropped. The special courts are expected to save the state $1.5 million by keeping men out of prison and getting them to pay child support.

The bill now goes to the governor.


Download/listen Brent Martin reports (1:16 MP3)