Getting behind in child support payments can lead to trouble. A 2009 South Carolina survey reports that one in eight inmates had been jailed for failure to pay child support. In Georgia, 3,500 parents were jailed in 2010. Hackensack, New Jersey reported 1,800 parents had been jailed or given ankle monitors in 2013. Nationwide, most of the incarcerated are men, many of whom lack the means to pay child support trapping them in a cycle of debt, unemployment and jail.
These are apparently the circumstances that Walter L. Scott found himself in when he was killed as he fled from police earlier this month. Scott originally went to jail for failure to pay child support, lost his job as a result, and eventually racked up 18K in back child support. Family members believe his decision to flee was an attempt to avoid another stay behind bars and the potential loss of yet another job, because of an outstanding warrant related to the enforcement of child support.
The problem begins with child support orders that exceed a parent’s ability to pay. When a parent gets behind on payments, problems escalate. Authorities step-up collection efforts by withholding a hefty percentage of paychecks, seizing bank deposits and tax refunds, and suspending driver’s and professional licenses making it diffucult to maintain employment. If all efforts fail to bring the payments current, the parent may face incarceration.
Although the laws were enacted to make a parent with the ability to pay accountable – the ‘down with the dead-beat dad’ push of the 80’s – they do not play favorably to those who have limited resources. In fact, child support calculations are often derived from “imputed income”, which is a formula based on potential earnings from a full-time, minimum wage or median wage job, rather than actual income. If you are down on your luck, out of work or underemployed, making child support payments can be challenging.
The best way to approach the support of your children is to get a reasonable child support order from the beginning or, barring that, seeking a modification of the terms if your situation changes. Getting professional legal help is key. If you are considering divorce or need help with a child support negotiations, contact the Law Offices of Ronald L.Bell, PC. Ron has the experience and knowledge to get you a fair judgement.
Source: The New York Times, “Skip Child Support. Go to Jail. Lose Job. Repeat.” by Frances Robles and Shaila Dewan, April 19, 2015