There has been an ongoing debate over the policy of sending parents in New Jersey to jail for failing to make child support payments. Proponents of the jail time incentive say that it is an effective way to get noncustodial parents to pay the back child support that they owe. People who disagree with sending parents to jail for unpaid child support say that the policy hurts low-income parents.
According to an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights, some parents end up going to jail over and over again because of child support debt. Many parents go to jail repeatedly because they are given as little as three months to pay a large child support debt once they are released.
Jail time is the last resort for enforcing child support payments after a non-paying parent’s paychecks are garnished and their bank account balances are seized. Parents who fail to make child support payments may also have their driver’s licenses and other professional licenses revoked. Although jail time is the last resort for enforcing child support payments, there are still thousands of parents in jail for this reason. According to a survey from 2009, one out of every eight inmates in South Carolina was in jail for failure to make child support payments.
A lot of parents get behind on child support payments because they were unable to afford the payments in the first place or they became unemployed after the child support order was issued. A lawyer can often assist a parent who in this situation with the preparation and filing of a petition for a modification of the support order based upon the adverse change in the payer’s financial circumstances.