Should everyone have access to legal representation before being jailed for non-payment of child support?
Is prison time the best approach to getting deadbeat parents to pay?
The ability of judges to jail parents without a trial is possible because failure to pay child support is usually handled as a civil matter, meaning that the non-custodial parent — or the “contemnor” in legal terms — is found guilty of contempt of court and ordered to appear at a hearing.
He or she is not entitled to some constitutional protections that criminal defendants receive, including the presumption of innocence. And in five states — Florida, Georgia, Maine, South Carolina and Ohio — one of the omitted protections is the right to an attorney.
I've never heard of a case that did not include a hearing for a noncustodial parent (NCP) being in contempt of court. I know in our state, if they have not paid within a certain amount of time or if their outstanding debt exceeds a certain amount, they are notified to contact the county to enter a payment agreement plan or go to court on a set date. If neither occurs, a warrant is issued for their arrest. If they are found, they either get arrested or contact the county, give contact info, and set up a new hearing date to deal with the issue. The state is mandated to review just cause for nonpayment, such as losing a job, etc. They also recommend the NCP to apply for a temporary change in the support order when they get laid off. The judge then reviews it usually every 90 days to see where they are at in getting a job and what the local market is looking like in getting any sort of employment. And the article is right, the courts must review if the NCP willingly did not pay child support.
Back to the initial question, if they are criminally charged with nonpayment of support both at the state and federal level, I believe they should be able to retain a public defender.
Is prison/jail time the best approach to getting uncooperative NCP's to pay? For the majority of them, it's a hands down yes. If they're willing to refuse to make their payments (be it self-employed or under the table), quit jobs as soon as child support catches up to them, or go into hiding to avoid paying, I believe they deserve to create a record for their choices to provide for the needs of their child. It's negligent to not pay. If they're refusing to pay anyway, a dose of jail time may be just what they need for a reality check. Many NCP's comply simply due to the threat of jail time if they don't.
DD Twins: 8/4/09 @ 35 Wks - No NICU, woot!
I absolutely believe that jail time should hang over their heads, but as a last resort. If the parent who has primary custody can't get it by any other means, including docking of pay or garnishing tax returns, then they absolutely should face jail time. The "innocent until proven guilty" doesn't stand here, as they are guilty, without question... and need to quit being deadbeats.
Krystal & Donovan - 12/2/06
Reagan - 10/2/02
Maximus - 3/10/05
Liberty - 12/11/08
My angel in Heaven 1/7/13
As a parent receiving child support I say yes, they should have jail time hanging over their heads if they refuse to pay. Frankly my ex would fall behind if it weren't for that very threat. He thinks he shouldn't have to pay anything! But he does because he understands the consequences.
Christina + Rory = a grand total of:
Amelia, Anthony, Andon, Noah, Mason, & Trinity-woof
I think there is a clear difference between dead-beat parents who refuse to pay and those that simply can't afford it based on issues that arise. If a parent refuses to pay and has the means to do so, absolutely they should be in trouble and should automatically have their paychecks garnished.
The stories in the link stated most of these parents had no job and no means to support themselves or another person. How can they pay if they have no job? In this economy decent paying jobs are hard to come by. They can't pay if they don't have money. I get that it is their respondsibility, but they also have to live in order to continue to support someone else. What good will it do making them sit in a jail for 6 months when they could be out finding a job?
My father was ordered to pay child support; he held a steady job but wasn't paid squat. It was $25 a week owed to my Mom. Seems like a very small amount, but when you don't make anything to begin with...it's a large deduction.
But if you put a person in jail for non-payment-- doesn't that pretty much guarantee that they will not be able to pay while they are incarcerated. I can't make sense of it.....
If you have no income, how are you supposed to pay? And if the courts have ordered that you pay nearly half of what you earn, how are you supposed to survive? I don't have answers to these questions....but they seem legitimate in today's economic climate.
Jail just seems like a way to assure that they aren't making any money and that it is harder to get a job post-jail time......
They have what's call Huber Law for those that become incarcerated and are able to be released for work purposes only. But they actually would've had to be working. If a person lost their job, depending on the work quarters, they should be eligible for U/C which child support can be deducted from there as well. If they have no income or their income is reduced to no fault of their own, they should be going into court administration and requesting a modification of their order at the time the change occurred.
This issue would be no different than if a person violated another civil matter, such as order for protection or harassment orders where they are told at the time the original order is in place what would happen if they don't comply with the expectations. If they have good cause for not bringing in income, like I said, the courts MUST review the case to show beyond reasonable doubt that they are willingly not complying with the order before they are sentenced. They know that it's negligence to not pay the child support that the child depends on for their needs. It puts the custodial parent in a position to possibly not be able to financially meet their mutual child's needs which may trigger many other issues that could be considered harmful to the child, such as homelessness, malnourished, or living in an unsafe and/or unsanitary environment.
If they are sentenced because the courts have established that they are not complying either by not paying support when they are (for example) self-employed, working under the table, or simply living off of others because they refuse to pay child support, then they should suffer a penalty for making that choice. They know beforehand what the consequences could be if they fail to cooperate. They also have other resources available to assist the parent if changes occur and they need assistance to file with the court and have a hearing, such as Father's Resource Center in our state. This is available for all noncustodial parents, not just fathers.
It's harder to get a job for almost anyone post jail time. Does that mean they shouldn't be penalized for theft, drug dealing, or any other crime?
DD Twins: 8/4/09 @ 35 Wks - No NICU, woot!
I do agree that ordering someone to pay half of their income is crazy though - depending on how much they make. Is that common? I don't know enough about child support to really argue that, but I can imagine that if you make $25K a year and child support is $14.5K a year, you're going to have to move back in with your parents or something. I would have assumed that the courts would leave the non-custodial parent with enough to live on at least, but I don't know enough about it to argue one way or another.
On the other hand, every child is a 2 person responsibility. I don't think that the child should do without neccessities because the non-custodial parent "can't afford" to pay child support either. Rebecca, in your case, I bet your mom paid a heck of a lot more than $25 a week to house, feed, and clothe you, not to mention that her employment opportunities would have been more limited than your dad's if you were living with her. The non-custodial parent can get a second job if it comes to that, but depending on how old your kids are, as the custodial parent you may not have that option since you may not have access to child care during nights and weekends, or else have to pay through the nose for it. So I have to admit that I don't feel totally bad for the noncustodial parent who is broke after C/S, because it seems like they are often still in less dire (financial) straights than the custodial parent.
-Alissa, mom to Tristan (5) and Reid (the baby!)
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But for the original order, depending on the state, it's either figured using both parents' income or just the noncustodial income. If it's noncustodial income only, the percentage is also figured on the number of kids the obligation is for. I've never seen an original obligation being higher than 50%. The lowest obligation (besides $0) I've seen is $25/mth. The percentage can be varied as long as the judge justifies the reasoning behind it and it creates an unreasonable hardship.
Last edited by Beertje; 09-13-2011 at 01:25 PM.
DD Twins: 8/4/09 @ 35 Wks - No NICU, woot!
My oldest son's bio dad owes him about $20k. He avoids it by living off of (unnecessary) SSI and living with different people every week. They can't touch that money. I absolutely think he should be in jail. There really isn't anything keeping him from working. I do think that deadbeat parents should be in jail, doing work duty, and getting paid minimum wage that goes directly to the child.
If the parent is behind on child support for things that they have no control over (laid off, injury, etc), that is different. Not paying just because you are a waste of space deserves to be punished.
Dylan 4/22/04, Devon 6/24/06,Dorothy 9/13/07, Derek 12/19/09, Daniel 12/18/10, Daphne 2/24/12
Mindie and Mark, 5/16/09