Legislative efforts to give judges in Plano and other parts of Texas the ability to enforce support orders with six-month jail sentences might have caught the father of an 11-year-old boy in a clerical nightmare. The dad was paying his court-ordered child support by having it deducted directly from his paycheck through an automated system administered by the state. When he was informed that the deductions were short $3,000, the man paid what was owed plus another $1,000 and thought the matter was resolved.
Under a recent change to Texas law, judges can sentence a person to six months in jail for the failure to pay child support. The law does not allow a person who owes delinquent payments to catch up prior to going to court in order to avoid going to jail. The jail sentence might have been avoided had the attorney for the child’s mother agreed to settle the case. Instead, the mother’s attorney insisted that the child’s father pay $3,500 in legal fees. When he refused to do so, the court proceedings went forward and ended with the judge imposing the maximum sentence allowed under the law.
The father began serving his jail sentence after being told that the decision of the judge could not be appealed to a higher court. This case is an example of how the courts, acting in what they consider to be the best interests of the child, treat the failure to pay child support very seriously in imposing penalties against parents who default on their support obligations.
Parents paying court ordered child support might find it helpful to speak to an attorney if they are notified of delinquent payments. An attorney might offer suggestions and guidance to assist them in resolving support issues.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Clerical Error In Child Support Payments Leads To Six-Month Jail Sentence For Clifford Hall“, January 25, 2014