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Barbara L. Jouette, Attorney, P.C.
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Failure to pay child support may result in imprisonment

As some Texas parents may know, setting up child support is an important part of divorce. Helping a custodial parent care for the child is court ordered and requires due diligence. However, sometimes child support is not forthcoming, and the judicial order is abandoned. This may lead to various penalties and imprisonment.

The number of parents nationwide who have been imprisoned for not paying child support is unknown, but some states do tally the number. In South Carolina, 12.5 percent of incarcerated individuals in 2009 were jailed for refusing to pay court-ordered child support. New Jersey placed electronic devices on 1,800 individuals while Georgia put 3,500 non-paying parents in jail.

If the custodial parent is receiving public funding, the paying parent is obligated to not only pay child support but also pay back the public assistance funds. This might compound the problem. In addition, for many parents who fail to pay, officials have the ability to garnish up to 65 percent of wages and tax refunds and suspend both drivers and other licenses until the support payments are received.

In some cases, parents who pay support have a limited amount of time after leaving jail to pay child support in full. If this does not happen, the parent may be returned to jail. According to some authorities, this forms a cycle of poverty and imprisonment. The debate continues over whether the use of jail time is an appropriate way to force parents to meet child support obligations.

If a parent is unable to pay the amount of child support the court ordered, he or she may benefit from speaking with an attorney. The attorney may review the support order and ask the court for a modification based on the individual's income and lack of funds.

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