In this difficult economy, many parents are having trouble making child support payments. But the difficult economy makes it even harder for parents who count on receiving child support to provide for their children if payments are not made. The vicious cycle has led some authorities to move in the direction of more punishment for failure to pay child support, including jail time.
Some parents who owe child support deliberately choose not to pay, in a misguided attempt to "punish" or control the other parent. In these cases, most people would agree that jail might be an appropriate measure. In most cases, though, parents want to pay their child support, but financial difficulties make it impossible for them to meet their full obligation. In these situations, jail would only make it harder for that parent to earn money for child support.
Parents who are unable to pay child support are also the least likely to be able to afford a lawyer, and thus the most likely to spend time in a cell because of that. Pittsburgh child support lawyers often advise clients on the potential dangers of failure to pay child support.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that because failure to pay is a civil matter, poor defendants are not entitled to a court-appointed attorney. They have added instructions that courts are to take precautions to make sure all parties have a fair hearing.
According to federal law, parents who do not pay cannot be incarcerated unless they willfully disobey a court order. However, trials for parents who cannot afford an attorney often take only minutes with the judge sentencing the parent without considering any other aspects of the parent's relationship with the child.
Source: Today Show "Unable to pay child support, poor parents land behind bars" Sept. 12, 2011