Is imprisonment necessary to enforce paying child support?
Many divorced Californians know that support is important to their children’s well-being. Paying support on time guarantees that children’s needs will be met so that they don’t go without. However, not all noncustodial parents are able to earn enough income to make their child support payments on time. When that happens, they face the legal consequences, which may include jail time.
For instance, parents can have a hard time paying child support when they do not have jobs. Sentencing people to jail for nonpayment only makes it impossible for them be employed. As a result, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement is spearheading an initiative to help noncustodial parents get back on track. One of OCSE’s goals is to help parents who owe child support to land a job, stay employed and eventually pay the support.
Demonstration projects are going forward in various areas in the United States, including California, whereby grants have been given to encourage parenting, custody and child support initiatives. OCSE child support programs serve a quarter of all children and half of all children living in poverty in the United States. These support services affect 17 million American children whose families’ budgets depend on child support.
Generally, the noncustodial parent is required to pay child support, sometimes by court order, and, legally, it is an act of contempt to fail to pay. The resulting contempt hearings are a waste of time that, like serving jail time, does not solve the problem of nonpayment.
Using a more positive approach to engage noncustodial parents, help them get jobs and enable them to pay child support promises to be more effective. At the same time, noncustodial parents who are having a hard time paying child support and who need a modification of their agreement may benefit from speaking with a legal professional who specializes in family law.
Source: Governing, “Is Jailing Deadbeat Dads Effective?” Jonathan Walters, July 16, 2013