Monday, April 20, 2015

Going to Jail for Failing to Pay Child Support

The child support system gets some headlines as it has come to light that his family believes that Walter Scott was in arrears of his child support obligation, which may have led to him fleeing the arresting officer on April 4.  The New York Times has a feature article on his history with the system and the pressure the system puts on the child support payor.

While there are many cases where the parents can work out their child support obligations and provide for their children, there are also many people on the complete other end of the spectrum. There are those without a job, who are unable to pay even the most basic child support obligation imposed upon their state, and who can find themselves repeatedly hauled into court by either their ex or the state to attempt to enforce the obligation.

Those in the latter category are the focus of the New York Times article:
A 2007 Urban Institute study of child support debt in nine large states found that 70 percent of the arrears were owed by people who reported less than $10,000 a year in income. They were expected to pay, on average, 83 percent of their income in child support — a percentage that declined precipitously in higher income brackets.
In addition to those two categories, there is another large category that I have found myself involved in over the years: the parent who can pay child support, but who chooses not to out of spite for their ex. The New York Times article is particularly troubling because many times, those who can pay but refuse to do so often game the system and pay just enough to stay out of jail. In New York, the cagey payor can usually avoid jail by paying just enough child support to keep the jail option off the table – an option many low income payors do not have.

It is clear from the New York Times article and the studies that have been done that the child support enforcement system is ripe for some alterations.

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