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Clerical error sends dad to jail for failing to pay child support

Most states across the nation, including our state of Massachusetts, recognize how important it is to enforce child support orders handed down by family law judges. Because of how important these payments are to the parent and child receiving them, some states even have programs that offer wage garnishment. This not only ensures that the ordered funds reach the child, but the parent responsible for making the payment does not suffer any legal consequences for not paying.

But as our Worchester County readers will see from an out-of-state case, these systems aren't always perfect and mistakes can be made. Unfortunately, the law in some states still holds the parent responsible for making payments, even if they were not aware that an error had occurred.

Some of you may have already heard about the case of the Texas father who is currently serving a six-month jail sentence for failing to make child support payments. His case has captured national attention because his case presents a question that often lingers on the minds of any parent who is ordered to make support payments: could I be sent to jail if I fail to make a payment? His case also raises another question though: what happens if my failure to pay wasn’t my fault?

In this particular case, the man argued that the support payments that were supposed to be garnished from his paychecks and sent to his son’s mother were instead garnished by his employer. These funds never reached the other parent. But by the time he was able to remedy the situation by paying back the amount plus an additional $1,000, changes had been made to the laws in his state that made it “impossible for him to avoid jail time.”

Though the man is not happy about being sent to jail -- he feels it would be better for his child if he was allowed to continue working so he can continue making payments -- he says serving time is simply what he has to do. It’s likely the hope among some of our readers that a judge will consider what’s in the child’s best interest and perhaps show the man leniency on his sentence.

Source: KPRC Houston, “Dad begins jail sentence in complicated child support case,” Mary Benton, June 24, 2014

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