Jailing a deadbeat dad amounts to debtor’s prison?

This one’s likely to light up the blogosphere. From the Associated Press:

State attorneys are appealing a judge’s order that favored five fathers who are targeting Georgia’s practice of jailing parents who don’t pay child support.

The Georgia Attorney General’s office on Monday filed a motion that said there’s an “epidemic” of parents who fail to pay their child support. It said the men were jailed because of the “consequences of their own poor decision-making.”

The five fathers claim in the lawsuit that jailing parents who can’t afford to pay child support creates a modern day debtor’s prison. They want to force Georgia to provide poor defendants with attorneys at child support hearings.

The men recently won a court battle when a judge allowed thousands of other parents who were imprisoned for failing to pay the child support join their lawsuit.

My AJC colleague Bill Rankin has some excellent background on the situation, which includes this:

Emotions run extraordinarily high in cases involving custody and support; angry ex-spouses often are all too happy to see the other parent jailed, and judges, weary of excuses from deadbeats, often oblige them.

In Georgia, after finding a parent in contempt, judges set a “purge fee,” which is typically below the amount of child support that is owed. If the parent can pay the purge fee, he or she can avoid being sent to jail.

Over the past decade, 3,612 people — each serving an average of 127 days — were incarcerated in Gwinnett County for failing to pay child support, according to jail records.

“We’ve seen some who’ve been jailed come up with $15,000 to $20,000 in a couple of days,” Sheriff Butch Conway said. “Some will languish for months and not be able to come up with $100 to $200. Some can’t pay it but, sadly, I think some do have the money but just don’t want to pay.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

145 comments Add your comment

michael g.

January 30th, 2012
5:12 pm

Take care of your kids! It is willful neglect to not pay child support. Jail is too good an option for those losers!

Look before I leap...

January 30th, 2012
5:15 pm

Seizure of assets and wage garnishment would seem to be a more productive approach with the added benefit of not having to pay the cost of jailing these guys.

Attack Dog

January 30th, 2012
5:15 pm

I guess these “deadbeats” are trying to get a Joe Walsh Pass.

Double Zero Eight

January 30th, 2012
5:16 pm

The epitome of a “vicious cycle”.

C.Payne

January 30th, 2012
5:20 pm

I’m not sure why a right to counsel doesn’t apply in these cases. Yes, I know that child support is a civil matter, not a crminal one, but they can still result in jail time. There is a difference between someone who refuses to pay child support and someone who lacks the financial means to make the payments. Those in the former group will pony up the money when faced with jail time, while those in the latter group just end up in prison. While in prison, they’re certainly not making any money to make their support payments. It ssems completely counter-productive to put a destitute parent in jail for failure to pay child support, and thereby prevent them from doing anything to change their destitute status.

GaBlue

January 30th, 2012
5:31 pm

Here’s how it REALLY works in Georgia:

Couple divorces, judge orders child support/amount. Deadbeat parent (DBP)(not always the dad) doesn’t pay, or doesn’t pay in full. Custodial parent (CP) has to PAY A LAWYER (with what????) to even address the court to complain that DBP isn’t paying as ordered. Judge says, “Pay up,” and everybody goes home. Later, when DBP parent still does not pay as ordered, CP has to PAY A LAWYER (with what????) to even address the court to complain that DBP does not pay as ordered. Judge says, “Pay up,” and everybody goes home. Later, when DBP parent still does not pay, CP has to PAY A LAWYER to even address the court to complain that DBP does not pay as ordered. Lather, rinse, repeatedly line lawyer’s pockets. At some point, CP shows up for court and is led into a MEDIATION ROOM where DB parent whines to a mediator. CP tells everyone in a room to (*expletives deleted*) and storms out. Years and tens of thousands in lawyer fees later, Judge finallly agrees to garnish DBP’s wages, IF THERE ARE ANY.

I can’t imagine what these deadbeats are doing to actually get locked up for what is totally run-of-the-mill around here. The only thing the family court system accomplishes in this state is making lawyers rich.

david lance

January 30th, 2012
5:46 pm

I worked 2 jobs for years to pay my child support. I gave up free time and any kind of social life to do what was right. I have watched many people take the easy way out. Jail is too good for them. I personally know someone who is over 30,000 dollars behind and he gets a slap on the wrist. Put the SOB’s in jail and leave them there.

Paddy O

January 30th, 2012
5:52 pm

david lance – that is vengence & punitive – which the taxpayer simply picks up even more of a tab. It appears to me to be counter productive. Which begs the question: Are the child support demands reasonable? Should they be capped at a certain max of annual income ( ala Obama’s repay plan for college loans)?

markie mark

January 30th, 2012
5:56 pm

Paddy…..can you cap the amount of money it takes to raise a child today?

InAtl

January 30th, 2012
5:59 pm

Not paying court-ordered child support is contempt of court. Why should deadbeat parents be the only ones not to go to jail for this?

heartofdarkness

January 30th, 2012
6:01 pm

Handling these matters with dispatch administratively and allowing arrearages to be worked off on public works projects might serve justice better than the present system

buckhead benny

January 30th, 2012
6:01 pm

You guys are full of sh*t- I have been thru this and I have been paying my ex wife in old income amounts that came out during when my decree was issued in 2008- since I am self employed they took my 2007 tax returns which were 3 times the amount I made before the recession hit- So I was paying close to 3k in child support bills every month- ( you can only modify your decree every two years- a little well known fact- and guess what most ex spouses won’t voluntarily lower your payments- and for some reason the courts don’t want to jump in unless you have the means to draw up a petition to challenge the courts to reset the amount-

Your even more screwed if you own your own business like me- since then your not a w-2 employee and a lot of times you don’t know exactly what your going to make until the year is over and then you have to prepare for what your deductions are- so a lot of guys have been unfairly labeled as deadbeats- for example, I had 60 percent less in just gross deposits to my business than what my income was listed as to the courts from the year before but I was totally screwed because of what I made pre recession-

There are hundred’s of thousands of men like me that are in that boat- and ex spouses seemed to love having you underneath their thumb- so trust me some of us pay over 36k a year for a 3 year old child to an ex spouse that has boyfriends live with her when your own child is there- so you guys have zero clue what your talking about-

If I have a bad month or two I could literally starve and have to borrow money to just eat on and it would matter nothing to nobody-

This laws were developed in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s when women didn’t work- My ex wife makes 150k a year and literally had bled me for every dime thru attorney’s fees and child care costs which by the way are not take deductible so that 36,000 I paid add another 35 percent tax on top of that to the IRS and GA dept of revenue.

Its even worst for someone that doesn’t make much money they got no chance in hell of ever getting any just without an attorney to file on their behalf-

Judges know this and see women every day making up bs and playing the pity game- Now are there deadbeat dads yes- but I can guarantee you this and ask around women get the better end of the stick in 2000’s and today- No doubt about it- if your 30 days late your consider a dead beat? you have to show willful contempt by the way which is a big difference-

ATLGAL

January 30th, 2012
6:04 pm

TAKE CARE OF YOUR CHILDREN AND YOU WONT HAVE TO GO TO JAIL!! WE ARE TIRED OF LAZY NO GOOD PARENTS OUT HERE THAT WANT TO LAY AND NOT PAY!!!

Bubba

January 30th, 2012
6:05 pm

My observation is that when judges order deadbeat dads to jail for failure to pay child support, money suddenly and magically appears. Of course, if the father is unable to come up with the money after some period of time, the judge should exercise the discretion to review the situation.

Bubba

January 30th, 2012
6:07 pm

Perhaps there should be a change in the law to permit modification of child support more often when the bottom falls out of income due to business conditions rather than a voluntary choice to give up a good salary, and greater consideration of circumstances of self-employed parents.

Sonny LIED!

January 30th, 2012
6:08 pm

I LIED and Galloway still knows it.

Aquagirl

January 30th, 2012
6:10 pm

it seems completely counter-productive to put a destitute parent in jail for failure to pay child support

Lock that ill-controlled trouser snake behind bars and it won’t be creating any more kids. If the idiot owner wants to detach it and send it to jail instead, I think that would be a wonderful option.

ld

January 30th, 2012
6:11 pm

Yes, it does; but in Georgia they are some times let out on “work release” w/ support going to the child and, if they stay in that job, they are then released but their wages garnished to pay both back and current support.

It does seem like there should be a better way.

I recall a case where a man (a trucker) had signed to give up his parental rights so his ex’s new hubby could adopt the child (he actually believed the child was not his but his ex’s new hubby’s child)–but the adoption did not occur so, when the child was 18, the mom sued for support and WON eighteen years worth.

ld

January 30th, 2012
6:12 pm

The best solution is birth control==men should NOT father children they are not prepared to support.

GaBlue

January 30th, 2012
6:14 pm

Yeah…. *snerk*… and you MARRIED a person like that because???
… because you thought she’d be sane and nurturing, a good nester, thrifty little saver, who’d always respect you, support your efforts, make all money decisions based on your joint, agreed-upon long-term goals and what’s best for the children, and be a sweet, caring, loving mother and wife who’d always put the family first?

Or… did you look past her fondness for $500 shoes & handbags, fancy cars, self-absorption, substance abuse, salon bills, and narcissistic demands because she was the HOTTEST thing that ever slept with you twice, and your friends were all, “Way to go, man?”

Where’s my violin?

tman

January 30th, 2012
6:16 pm

It is not a fair system all the way around especially how the payments are made no matter what the parents income is. This economy is bad. I lost my job and explained to the ex the same amount of money is not coming in. I got a sympathetic ear but how long is that going to last because she has no job herself. You can see that the support at times is household income and not exclusively spent on the child which becomes a problem. now those that have income and don’t pay garnishment and jail may be the answer. for those who have no income you can’t get a job while in jail and then penalties add to your debt while incarcerated. Not an easy answer?

Dave

January 30th, 2012
6:16 pm

I’m just thankful I was able to fulfill my commitments to all concerned …

just sayin'

January 30th, 2012
6:17 pm

Or be an awesome dad, pay LOTS of money ON TIME every month, and have the ex-wife tell the kids that their dad doesn’t give her enough money for their food…

ld

January 30th, 2012
6:18 pm

Sadly, fathers who have children by different mothers usually end up neglecting the older ones until a court orders them to pay up or go to jail–then the younger ones end up doing w/o.

And yes, the change in Georgia is (or was) only permitted every three years; this should be more flexible in this economic environment–especially if the father is self-employed and TRYING to pay.

buckhead benny

January 30th, 2012
6:19 pm

There is no protection for a Dad that loses a job or there income goes down dramatically- This is why there becomes a Dad usually owing money to an ex spouse- The Dad doesn’t have the money to pay 5000k-10k to properly modify the decree- and also can’t within a 2 year window since the courts are so bogged down.

The way the system works now- if they see even any money go thru any of your accounts that money is supposed to go to the child first even if it is your power payment, your water payment, your tax payment, your diabetes medicine, they don’t care- and they can rule you in contempt just on that alone. That is archaic- especially if your ex spouse is doing well and you can show the kid is doing well- they should have a mititgating circumstance situation- There are none for child support-

that’s why you see dudes do crazy stuff like rob banks and stuff- people hate being labeled that- Trust me your taking the lowest of the lowest dudes on the planet and trying to say hard working dudes like myself who pay almost what someone’s salary is- I can watch my ex wife litteraly take trips with my 3 year old 8 times a year- and the courts will let random dudes and boyfriends live there since a lot of times they don’t want to appear to be old fashioned and out of touch to today’s times.

This is the truth but if I am 30 days late even though I may pay off in 60 days and the amount is a lot- then I am included in that amount- This is the majority of chicks out there today- they treat you (the dad) like a business deal period

Judges know this and so do women in general- Times have changed this isn’t the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s- Women for the most part have it good today with this system and they know it-

Why do you think you see so many women going after professional athletes? they take your gross income and boom that’s what you get every month- So you think thats fair? Yeah, come live in my word and you would see what I am talking about- Have them add some safe guards that when you pay child support no random dudes get to live in the house that you pay child support for it- Little know fact guess what in Georgia they can- So get your facts straight.

ld

January 30th, 2012
6:22 pm

I know another case where an ex collected back child support from grown children from her spouses VA retirement benefits–both were in their sixties–how old was that claim? there should be a statute of limitations–if a spouse does not at least TRY to collect (via at least a gov’t claim via request for public assistence for which the DB would then repay) then, after eighteen (or less) years, her ‘rights’ to claim back support should end. (as in two cases mentioned prior)

Sometimes the delay in seeking support is to prevent the dad from seeking visitation–he thinks he’s home free, then WHAM, many years later.

asdf

January 30th, 2012
6:25 pm

Maybe there are no debtor’s prisons, but there needs to be a way to make their lives “less convenient”. This goes for people who don’t pay on judgments against them as well. At a miniumum, they should make debtors attend a class on why they should pay, twice a month, with the 1st at one end of the county in the morning, the 2nd at the other end of the county in the evening, to make sure it’s not convenient for anyone. Eventually, they’ll find it’s easier to just get a job and pay what they owe. If they don’t show up, they’d have to go before a judge another day to explain why they didn’t show.

GaBlue

January 30th, 2012
6:26 pm

“Yeah, come live in my word and you would see what I am talking about.”

No thanks. This is what worshipping money, superficial beauty, and material posessions has done to the American family. Those of you complaining about the condition of your bed seem to be skipping right past the part where YOU made that bed, chose that spouse, and accepted those expectations to begin with. Trust me, when you start OWNING what happened instead of blaming, your insides will finally begin to heal. Bless your hearts!

Amy

January 30th, 2012
6:27 pm

It’s not always the father’s fault – I personally know several men affected by the exporting of their jobs overseas to cheaper workers. Then no one here will hire them.

Why don’t we all take the impassioned approach and offer employment to these people? Why are we not solving the problem at hand?

SizzleChest

January 30th, 2012
6:30 pm

I had a judge order me to pay $3,200 to a debt collector ( old credit card).

If I don’t pay them, do I go to jail for contempt of court ?

No.

Child support is a civil, not a criminal matter.

Pleeeeze

January 30th, 2012
6:31 pm

Ok as a custodial parent if I refuse to provide financially for my chld which means I provide food and shelter then I can go to jail….but the non custodial parent should not go to jail for doing the same thing????????

tman

January 30th, 2012
6:32 pm

@ Amy you are correct but the economy is so tight and there are limited jobs and chances if you get one it will be less than yo were previously making. Something is better than nothing but i must admit our lifestyles have been built around two incomes for the middle class sadly.

Amy

January 30th, 2012
6:32 pm

And “Id” – there are a FEW bad apples out there so angry at the ex that they will torpedo all jobs to avoid paying up the money. There are women out there homeless thanks to these bad apples.

THAT is why some claims are allowed to be made from retirement accounts.

Pleeeeze

January 30th, 2012
6:32 pm

Oh by the way its called Child Abandoment…which is criminal not civil

Aquagirl

January 30th, 2012
6:34 pm

Hey, Benny, I’m so sorry to hear you were forced to marry this horrid, horrid woman and insert your pen!s in her, thus producing a baby. I’m sure all this happened at gunpoint. GaBlue whopped you over the head with the truth—you married her, that was your choice. If she’s that terrible nobody else is responsible for your dumb thrill over scoring a trophy wife.

Oh, and call a waaaaambulance before posting that next long, boring tl;dr screed, maybe they’ll actually listen to your sniveling.

Overhaul Child Support

January 30th, 2012
6:35 pm

One if my support is for the child I should get a receipt for every dime that was spent on the child. I have a case in my family where support was being paid voluntary 600 bucks a month every month for 7 years the age of the kids. The women tried to get free daycare thru the government. They order dude to court. First judge saw the agreement they had and threw it out. She tried it again another judge to my family member to cough up 600 dollars more in child support. He knows pay 1200 bucks a month because the woman kept trying to get free daycare from the government. My case is simple didnt know I had a son until he was 9 the mother of my child thought the child belong to someone else, we live in different states. Long story short dude got tested he wasnt the father one day I open my check up at work and I was being deducted for child support, no court, no dna. They can go in your bank and suspend your license jail is a bit much. If I was a mother I could leave my child at a fire station or hospital and thats ok if I get behind two months I am going to jail. Really.

GaBlue

January 30th, 2012
6:36 pm

On a positive note:

TO ALL THE MOMS AND DADS OUT THERE WHO PUT THE KIDS’ WELL-BEING FIRST — YOU’RE THE BEST! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

KeepItInYourPants

January 30th, 2012
6:37 pm

Don’t have children you are not willing to support.

Don’t have children with somebody you would not feel comfortable handing your kids over to for periods of time.

Don’t agree to something in mediation that you are not willing to do.

Don’t use your children as weapons because you hate the other parent.

You will get ZERO sympathy from me on this. After you have chosen to have children it is TOO LATE to whine about it or drop the ball. Support your children. Physically, financially and emotionally… or get the hell out of their lives.

Look before I leap...

January 30th, 2012
6:42 pm

Ya know, some guys don’t pay cuz they CAN’T pay, some don’t pay because they are selfish low life scum and and others are wrapped up in a war with a vindictive ex who is using the state legal system as a a weapon of vengeance.

Different reasons all and all with different solutions.

hmmm...really?

January 30th, 2012
6:44 pm

My daughter’s dad was ordered to pay 80 per month. Yes,$80a month ,and he still didnt pay every month. I say,throw their dead-beat asses under the jail… That is all.

dean

January 30th, 2012
6:44 pm

The state of Georgia does not allow shared parenting. The state of Georgia requires that the higher income parent is required to have thier rights terminated. Because the united states pays women only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes then this law requires the father to always be non-custodial. This leaves children to be constantly abused by the mothers boyfriends and this is why states must have a DFACS to investigate child abuse monday thru friday. God has forbidden social workers from working on the weekends so they send the child to the fathers for the weekend. My brother finually got custody after nine years. I hired seek custody lawyers when the child got abused but did not get custody until I hired the child a personal Injury lawyer. The state of Georgia does not require both parents to provide support , only the non-custodial parent . The custodial parent is allowed to draw welfare and food stamps because the state would never require a custodial parent to also provide support. I think all mothers on welfare should also be put In jail for not providing support. hopefully laws putting fathers in jail is what it will take for fathers to stop surrendering custody at the time of the devorce.

Michael

January 30th, 2012
6:45 pm

In June 2011, the US Supreme Court said it’s ok to jail people if they were provided sufficient information or safeguards to prevent mistaken incarceration, such as, telling them well before the court date that presenting evidence of inability to pay was a defense to contempt of a court order. Turner v Rogers, June 20, 2011. They also said there was no right to a lawyer at government expense to explain it to you.

All the states have joined into the interstate compact on child support recovery. The uniform law requires that child support services be given to both the payor and the payee. Therefore, if the deadbeat parent were to go to the child support office with unemployment stubs, then the child support office would be required to do something to get the child support adjusted. Most folks don’t realize that.

Aquagirl

January 30th, 2012
6:45 pm

My case is simple didnt know I had a son until he was 9 the mother of my child thought the child belong to someone else

Simple? BOY, millions of MEN go through life without unexpected children popping up like weeds. This is what’s known as “normal.” Apparently you don’t inhabit the same world as they do.

Both Sides

January 30th, 2012
6:45 pm

It’s easy to want to put someone in jail when you think that this is such a simple issue. It’s not. Child have become a commodity for some parents (especially woman). I know this from listening to their lunchroom conversations of how the “ex” was going to pay for their new car, funiture and vacation. Oh and I am a woman so to say I’m some woman hating man won’t apply here. Most of the time if someone would truly take a good look they would find the other parent not allowing the paying parent to see their children or worse yet turn them against them. Who wants to pay for a child you can’t have a relationship with. The courts want to be tough on parents that don’t pay but they do little or nothing to the parent that is doing just as much harm to a child. Parents that do receive child support should be made accountable for where they spend that money, trust me, more times than not it isn’t going to the children. It is also tax free to the person who receives it, yet, the paying parent has to pay taxes on it as it was income earned. How do you feel about someone receiving thousands of dollars taxed free every year to spend as they please? While at the same time turning the child against the parent that is paying…..we need to get tough on both sides. If we send one to jail then we should send both there as they are both committing criminal acts to a child.

Dude

January 30th, 2012
6:46 pm

If you can’t kiss a kids unwiped ass don’t have one. It’s that simple. They are complete crap. Newter yourself. Keep your cash. Bang a hooker if you need to.

hmmm...really?

January 30th, 2012
6:50 pm

Dude, PREACH!!!

Overhaul Child Support

January 30th, 2012
6:52 pm

@ David Lance….One thing I know about the child support system if you work two jobs and they see your income in greater than the original order they will order you to pay more in support. You sir are a liar.

DJ Sniper

January 30th, 2012
6:52 pm

I see there are a few people in here who seem to think that all men who have to deal with child support are deadbeats who don’t give a hoot about their children, and I’m willing to bet that most of these people are women. Ladies, there are plenty of men out here who get screwed over by the child support system not because they are bad parents, but because of other factors: job loss, medical issues, a vindictive ex, a set of laws that are clearly outdated, etc etc. Stop trying to put all men in the same box. If a man volutarily chooses not to provide for his children, then throw the book at him. Otherwise, find out more about the situation before making a judgement.

tman

January 30th, 2012
6:53 pm

Divorced in GA and made sure i had joint custody and rights to make decisions in regards to education and healthcare. I did not reliquish my custody because I knew i would not have any say in anything or activities. That is not fair that one parent is given all the decision making and the other just pays with all the penalties and no say. There was a fight over joint custody but i stood my grounds and the ex had no legitimate reason to deny me and the judge ordered it. i advise all parents do not give up your custody only if it is best for the child or children.

JM

January 30th, 2012
6:54 pm

Let’s make the law equitable. You want to put fathers who can’t pay child support in jail? Fine. Then also put in jail the mothers who spend the child support on themselves rather than the children who are supposed to be supported. How many times does a Dad pay thousands a month to support their kids, only to see his ex use that money to pay for a trip, or tennis lessons or spa treatments?