Can we all agree that fathers who do not have custody of their children have an obligation to support the kids through paying child support? The amount of child support each parent has to pay is generally set by a family court, with the judge factoring in each parent’s income, among other things. When fathers refuse to pay child support over a long period of time, they can be punished by being sent to jail. This is generally a last resort, after wage garnishment and other methods fail to exact the money the children need.
But what can we make of a father who pays all of the child support he owes, but still winds up in jail? That is exactly what happened last November to a father in Houston, Texas. According to the father, the court increased his child support obligations without notifying his employer. As a result, his wage garnishments did not cover the full amount he owed in child support. His attorney claims that this was the result of an administrative error by the court, and meant that the deductions from the father’s paycheck were inconsistent and erratic.
Judge Sentenced Father to Jail for Contempt
When the mother’s attorney informed the father that he owed $3,000 in back child support, his lawyer initially advised him not to pay it, believing it was excessive. In addition, the mother claimed that the father was not complying with the court’s scheduled times to pick up their son for visitations. The father again stated that he knew nothing about this modification by the court. When he became aware of the discrepancy between the amount owed and the wage garnishments, the father went ahead and paid the nearly $3,000.
By the time the father appeared in court in November, his payments were caught up. But the mother’s attorney brought up the visitation times issue, and also demanded that the father pay $3,000 in attorney fees. The judge apparently agreed with the mother’s side of the story, and held the father in contempt. The father then walked out of the courtroom, further angering the judge. The judge ultimately sentenced the father to six months in jail.
Jail Sentence Is Consistent with New Texas Statute
Until last year, Texas law prevented a parent from being jailed for not paying child support if the parent was paid up at the time of the hearing. However, the Texas legislature recently repealed that provision, giving judges the discretion to punish repeat offenders. The repeal was intended to prevent delinquent parents from waiting until the day before a hearing to pay up on child support. The father in this case, who had been jailed in the past for failure to pay child support, was perceived by the judge to be a repeat offender, and therefore was put in jail in accordance with the law.