Fathers Jailed for Being Unable to Pay Full Child Support After Losing Their Jobs

“‘For one divorced father of four…the crumbling economy has had consequences beyond the emotional and financial.

“His $1,400 weekly support payments, plus additional expenses like health insurance and tuition, had been based on a court judgment in 2007.

“The man works for a realty business, and since the real estate market has frozen, his income has plummeted. Earlier this year he fell $23,000 behind in what he owed, including attorney’s fees to his ex-wife’s lawyer.

“With his modification petition still pending, he was handcuffed in court and put in jail for 30 days…

“‘Of the 45 guys I was in jail with,” he said, “12 to 14 were probate [child support] cases. So I know I’m not alone.'”

Joseph P. Kahn’s front page story Amid layoffs, child support pacts fraying: Stressed-out parents ask family court for help, relief (Boston Globe, 4/13/09) details the problems faced by child support obligors in the face a bad economy. It is not uncommon for decent, loving fathers like the Fathers & Families supporter quoted above to be punished or even thrown in jail simply because they can no longer earn enough money to pay the child support the family law system demands.

NPR reported on a similar story in Out Of Work, Parents Struggle To Keep Up On Child Support (5/4/09).

In that story a Cape Cod, Massachusetts father who lost his job in January is still required to pay $3,466 a month in child support and 65 percent of college expenses for two of his children. According to NPR:

He petitioned the court to pay less child support but…had to wait two and a half months for a hearing. Then the judge denied his request to temporarily lower his child support payments and scheduled a trial for July…typically, it takes six months from the time a non-custodial parent petitions the court to pay less because of a job loss to when the court makes a decision.

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