Jailing parents for failure to pay child support

Texas parents who must make decisions about child support may want to keep in mind that it is important to agree upon an amount that the parent paying support can afford. Some experts argue that a lower-income parent may find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty and incarceration.

Generally, what happens over time when a parent does not pay child support is that wages may be garnished, licenses seized and bank accounts frozen. Income tax refunds may be seized as well. Meanwhile, the missed support payments accumulate. A parent cannot get back on track by simply starting to make the payments again, as there are back payments as well. Eventually, the parent may be jailed. If the parent is released, they may have only a few months to catch up with payments and be unable to do so, and the cycle begins again.

Thousands of people go to jail each year for failure to pay child support. In 2010 in Georgia, 3,500 inmates were in their situation due to child support issues. Two counties in New Jersey either jailed or placed ankle monitors on 1,800 parents. A 2009 survey said the number of parents in South Carolina jailed for failure to pay support was as high as one out of every eight inmates.

Most courts will consider issues such as income and other financial obligations when deciding on child support, and an individual who has lost their job or had other changes in finances that might lead to an inability to pay child support can petition the court for a change. If parents can keep their relationship amicable, it might be easier to negotiate a child support agreement that suits everyone and balances the needs of the custodial parent with what the other parent can afford. An attorney may be able to assist with this negotiation.