A new Texas law gives family court judges discretion to put a parent in jail if he or she falls behind on child support payments, regardless of the parent's current payment status. In other words, even if a parent catches up on delinquent payments prior to the child support hearing, the judge still has the option of sending the parent to jail.
That may unfortunately be the case for a Houston father who unknowingly fell behind on child support payments because of a clerical error on the part of his employer. The 43-year-old man's employer acknowledged the mistake that prevented child support payments from going to the mother of the man's 12-year-old son. When the mix-up was noticed, the father reportedly paid the due amount in full, along with an extra $1,000.
At a child support hearing, the father was found in contempt of court for not making the ordered payments. Evidence of the employer's mistake wasn't presented at that hearing, though the evidence was presented during the father's appeal.
Still, the family court judge used her discretion to hand down a six-month jail sentence to the father, whose attorneys were unsuccessful in appealing the new law.
The father says he is fighting for custody of his son but doesn't want the boy to see him in jail. He said he is prepared to turn himself in and serve the sentence after having exhausted all other appeals. Texans with child support concerns may want to follow this story to see if the judge changes her mind.
Source: KTRK, "Clerical error for child support payments sending dad to jail," Tom Abrahams, June 23, 2014