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Child support delinquencies and incarceration

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2015 | Child Support

Arizona parents may be interested to learn that there are some critics of laws that send people to jail for not paying child support. While it might be appropriate punishment in some cases where parents simply refuse to honor their obligations, some are just too poor to pay child support. When this is the case, they can fall behind and the amount they owe can quickly grow.

Some say that this leaves lower-income people trapped between debt and prison as their wages are garnished, licenses taken away and bank accounts seized. In some states, thousands of parents go to jail for nonpayment.

A 2009 survey found that one out of every eight South Carolina inmates was incarcerated due to a failure to pay child support while in two New Jersey counties in 2013, the number of parents either put into jail or given ankle bracelets to wear reached 1,800. In Georgia, 3,500 parents were in prison in 2013 for failure to pay child support, and the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents in this situation who do not have access to legal counsel. According to an attorney with the group, parents are repeatedly returned to jail because they are unable to raise what they owe and keep up with ongoing payments.

Noncustodial parents who are unable to meet their child support obligations due to an adverse change in their financial circumstances may be able to file a petition with the court to have the child support order modified. It is important for them to realize, however, that such a modification will be prospective only, and it will not have any effect on existing delinquencies. A family law attorney might provide assistance to a parent who is in this type of a situation.