Poor Parents Jailed for Non-payment of Child Support

MSNBC reports that many so-called “deadbeat” parents are jailed each year for not paying their child support payments. Although some are jailed for hiding available funds, MSNBC reports that many parents are jailed without the benefit of legal representation, and in many cases, the divorce courts have failed to fully evaluate the parent’s ability to meet their child support obligations.

In fact, six plaintiffs in the state of Georgia have filed a class action lawsuit to force the state to provide family law attorneys for certain parents who cannot afford to hire their own lawyer and who may be facing incarceration for not paying their child support payments.

According to the nonprofit Southern Center of Human Rights in Atlanta, who is helping the plaintiffs with their claim, many plaintiffs, find themselves, “Languishing in jail for weeks, months, and sometimes over a year, these parents share one trait … besides their poverty: They went to jail without ever talking to an attorney.”

Critics of the current system argue that the incarceration, mostly of men, who are unable to pay their child support payments, penalizes the unemployed and low income who are unable to pay. Others claim the system closely resembles debtors’ prisons which were common in the early 1800s but were later outlawed.

The court proceedings are generally civil cases and the judge is able to send the parent to jail after they find them guilty of contempt of court. .The hearing only takes a few minutes.

Proponents of the current system argue that the threat of jail may increase the incentive for many parents to pay child support but critics point out that defendants should be entitled to some type of constitutional protections that other criminal defendants get and that there should not only be the “presumption of innocence”, but the defendant should also have the right to legal representation.

The Supreme Court disagreed, however, ruling in a case last year that parents, even low income parents, are not entitled to a court-appointed family law attorney if they are facing potential jail time for non-payment of child support.

In the Courts ruling they stated the states should use “substantial procedural safeguards” to protect the parents who have no means to pay child support.
The ruling by the Supreme Court, according to some experts, provides “very weak protections” for poor parents and will do little to solve the problems of those who are unable to pay and find themselves facing potential incarceration.

Hiring a Divorce Attorney

Are you considering divorce? Do you have children? If the answer to these questions is yes, it is time to talk to divorce lawyer. If you have attempted reconciliation and all of your attempts have failed, you may need to seek legal counsel.

Divorce lawyers understand the complexities of the divorce process and can review your situation and help you determine if divorce is right for you. Complicated divorce issues such as child support, child custody, spousal support and property distribution can differ by state. Find out how your state laws can affect your divorce and make sure you and your family are protected in the divorce process.