Missouri woman, 20, pays own child support to keep her mom out of jail

A Missouri woman is helping her mother when it comes to paying her child support. When Rebecca Greenwell is unable to cover monthly payments to her 20-year-old daughter, her child makes the payments, The Kansas City Star reported.

It’s an odd twist, but Greenwell’s daughter is trying to keep her mother out of jail.

Greenwell, 48, who lives in the Missouri town of Nevada, suffers from emphysema, which sometimes makes it difficult to work, or even find day labor jobs the newspaper reported. But if Greenwell cannot pay the monthly child support, she could spend six months in a Vernon County jail.

Greenwell was jailed for three days several years ago for missing a payment, the Star reported.

“It was hell,” Greenwell told the newspaper. “I’m trying, I’m doing the best I can do. But it’s not at their satisfaction and six months in county (jail) is not something that I think is fair.”

In Missouri, nearly 3,000 people were charged with criminal nonsupport during 2019, the Star reported. The Missouri Department of Corrections had 137 prisoners for child support-related cases in 2018, the newspaper reported.

Greenwell was divorced in April 2001 and was ordered to pay $185 monthly to support her son and daughter, the Star reported.

For the first four and a half years, Greenwell was employed and the support payments were garnished from her paychecks, the newspaper reported.

Greenwell's troubles began when health issues limited her ability to work. In addition to emphysema, she suffered from bulging discs, according to the Star.

"There were times when I didn’t pay when I wasn’t working,” Greenwell told the newspaper.

Greenwell still owes about $1,800 in back payments. In addition to her daughter, Greenwell’s son is 22.

In November 2012, Greenwell was charged with misdemeanor criminal nonsupport, the Star reported. Her probation was revoked in 2016 when she failed to pay. Another violation would land Greenwell in the Vernon County Jail for six months.

“It’s unreal,” Greenwell told the newspaper. “Jail time — I don’t think that’s something that I really need. Six months is a long time for $1,800 when I could be working.”

Greenwell said she sends money orders for partial payments when she can.

"If I can pay little by little, which (is) when I got it, that's what I do," Greenwell told the Star.

Advocates for child support reform said most parents do not deliberately avoid paying, and are being punished for being poor.

"We have people who are clearly indigent, clearly insolvent, in prison solely for not paying child support," Matthew Mueller, special public defender for the Missouri State Public Defender system, told the Star. "We need to ask ourselves whether we as a state, as citizens of Missouri, believe it's appropriate or fair to be sending poor people to prison solely for not paying child support."

Vernon County Prosecutor Brandi McInroy told the Star her office's goal "is just to get child support paid," but declined to comment on Greenwell's case.

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