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