By Nathan A. Hacker
Failing to pay child support is an easy conviction for any prosecutor, even if a jury is required as it is in some states.
Admittedly not a lot of lawyering skill is required to convince a jury of at least half women (most times it was two-thirds women) that a dad who didn’t pay his child support should be found guilty.
As a divorce lawyer for men, I repeatedly stress to my clients the importance of paying child support because I have that child support enforcement experience.
I know how a child support agency and prosecutors view an enforcement case, what their options are, how they are going to proceed, and how they are going to make their decision on whether to bring contempt or criminal charges.
Most prison sentences for failure to pay child support are short as these are not considered violent crimes and many prisons are overcrowded.
In most states, it’s not about pressing charges. As a prosecutor, I rarely sought “victim” approval from the person who was not receiving the child support payments, as it was not required. Prosecutors also rarely listen when the “victim” said, “I still love him. Dismiss the case. He’s not a bad guy.”
The state is the victim, as the government often had to pick up the tab on a child support payer who skipped out.
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If a term in the county lock-up or the state prison is not enough of a kick in the pants, you can also be charged the costs of extradition for your appearance at trial.
This not American Airlines first class, it’s not even Southwest. Most times it’s in a sheriff’s van and you are not only buying the gas and paying the deputy to drive you, but they are going to try to get a rental fee on the handcuffs as well.
If you have trouble paying child support, do not wait! Consider these options:
Motion to Reduce Child Support: If you cannot pay the current amount, consider filing a motion to reduce it. The standards and procedural requirements vary by state, but, in general, parents who genuinely cannot afford to pay (e.g., have lost a job or have significant student debt) will receive a reduced amount or a long-term payment plan. Contact a mens divorce attorney in your area for information about the rules applicable to you.
Three Year Support Review: By federal law since 1996, states receiving federal assistance must review child support orders every three years. Support payors and payees have a “one time pass” every three years to ask the court to review their current child support order. All they need to do is send a letter to the court to request it. Contact the court or child support administrator for your case to find out how your jurisdiction conducts the reviews.