Skip to comments.Donít pay support, go directly to jail
Posted on 06/16/2010 8:59:20 AM PDT by Responsibility2nd
Despite being locked up before for ignoring orders to pay child support, Luna had managed to come up with only $13.11 for his two children during the past year. He mumbled that he couldnt give more, that he didnt have a job and that he lived with his parents.
In Bexar County, parents like Luna who miss child support payments are far more likely to get jail time than in Texas four other largest urban counties.
Last fiscal year, 1,013 parents were held in Bexar County Jail for failing to pay child support, according to figures from the Texas attorney generals office.
Thats more than five times the number of deadbeat parents jailed in Dallas, Harris, Tarrant or Travis counties. Those four counties combined sent 631 people to jail last fiscal year for owing child support.
So far this year, deadbeat parents have taken up an average of 161 beds per week at the jail the same number that Harris County jailed all last year.
The vast discrepancy reflects a tougher-than-average philosophy in Bexar County in which parents who owe child support more often are summoned to court, judicial officials said. Usually, theyll stay in jail for a few days or weeks to teach them a lesson or until they come up with some money.
In two days, your namesake is going to turn 10. Thats a pretty big day for him, Rausch barked at Luna, ordering him back to jail until he could make a $2,000 lump-sum payment. A week later is Fathers Day, and youre going to be in jail for both of those. I dont think it matters to you.
After Lunas hearing, Rausch said fathers who dont have relationships with their children often need to be threatened with jail to get their attention.
The intact family is disappearing, he said. There are good fathers out there, but the numbers are going in the wrong direction.
This court has taken a very firm, tough approach to fathers and mothers who dont pay child support. I feel very comfortable and confident were handling it the right way.
Not everyone, however, agrees.
Its counterproductive to me, and it just doesnt make a lot of sense, County Judge Nelson Wolff said.
It costs the county $60 a day to house a prisoner in Bexar County Jail, which often is overcrowded, he said. That equates to $2.7 million taxpayers must pay each year to incarcerate the parents, he estimated.
Hand in hand with the cost is the problem of jail overcrowding.
I think there has to be a better way to do it, Wolff said.
In Bexar County, fathers or mothers whom the Texas attorney general has targeted as in arrears on payments usually arent brought into court unless they have been delinquent for months or years.
Once at Bexar County Courthouse, many work out deals with prosecutors or the other parent on the spot. If the case remains unresolved and a judge finds a defendant at fault, he or she may be put on probation or sent to jail until a lump sum can be paid.
Even if released, those found at fault frequently are summoned back for updates on their payment status. The intensive release-and-reset strategy can result in more people being jailed, judges said.
A parent could be jailed up to six times in a year for missing payments or failing to appear in court, Bexar County officials say.
The countys use of flash incarcerations may be different from other counties, where jail time is viewed more as a last resort, University of Texas family law Professor John Sampson said.
That appears to be the case in Dallas County, which has roughly the same number of child support cases as the San Antonio area, but far fewer people being sent to jail.
Both counties collected similar amounts of child support payments between $262 million and $265 million last fiscal year. Dallas, however, sent 160 deadbeat parents to jail.
I guess its a carrot-stick approach, said Judge George Collins, who oversees one of Dallas four child support courts. When you cant seem to encourage them anymore, you lock them up.
Were not big on putting them in jail. Were big on collecting money.
San Antonio attorney Lisa Dossmann has seen the differences in judicial philosophies firsthand, having worked for child support offices with the attorney general in Dallas and Bexar counties before going into private practice a decade ago.
On her first day in Rauschs court after transferring from Dallas, the case she was prosecuting resulted in jail time.
I was stunned, she said. In Dallas, they gave them a lot more time to come up with the money.
Like other attorneys and judges interviewed for this report, she sided with both of Bexar Countys child support judges, even though shes now a defense attorney.
I think its a fair approach, she said, explaining that her clients rarely end up in jail because she warns them of the consequences. If the client comes up with some kind of lump sum, even if its a low amount, the judge isnt going to incarcerate them.
And when they do refuse to pay, incarceration often will spur family members to chip in to make a payment so the defendant can be released quickly, she said.
Although Bexar Countys system is different from other counties in Texas, it does seem to be effective, said Janece Rolfe, a spokeswoman for the attorney generals Child Support Division.
It is a program that (prosecutors) are very pleased with, she said.
But with a child support collection rate on par with Dallas County, Bexar Countys judicial philosophy doesnt make sense, Wolff said. Once a person is in jail, hell lose his job or cant look for work.
It just doesnt add up, he said. Obviously, all of the other counties have come to the same conclusion except for us. ..... Youre putting them in there with the criminal element. ..... Jail should be for the protection of the public.
Wolff said he has been critical of the incarceration rate for most of his political career with the county. But its the elected district court judges who hire the child support court judges, and so his griping has had little effect, he lamented.
Senior state District Judge David Peeples sees a parallel between getting a child to obey and making a parent pay child support. Like the threat of spanking, incarceration can persuade a parent to follow court orders.
You need that possibility of going to jail hanging in the background, he said.
Peeples, who oversees the two child support courts in Bexar County and nearly two dozen in the region, knew the incarceration rate was disproportionately high in Bexar but was unaware of how high.
Peeples speculated that could be somewhat reflective of Bexar Countys low-income population, and judges vigilance in pursuing low-income defendants who might slip under the radar in other jurisdictions.
It might not be as lucrative going after a deadbeat parent whos poor, and it might not add a lot to the total collections tally, but the money collected even if a smaller amount is significant to the other parent struggling to raise the children, Peeples said.
Still, he said, the numbers need to be carefully examined.
If were not getting any more bang for our buck, youd wonder why we do it, he said.
Peeples also joined other judges, such as Delia Carian, Bexar Countys other support court judge, and Harris County child support Judge Gregory Wettman, in voicing skepticism that the incarceration statistics have been submitted the same way by each county.
Ive got to believe theyre just counting it different, Wettman said.
Carian, who has been on the child support bench in Bexar County for three years, admits she and Rausch are tough. But she never thought of that as an anomaly.
To me, it seems like everybody has the same position, she said.
Representatives with the attorney generals office said the agency is reviewing the numbers, but so far no reporting discrepancies have been found.
Inside Rauschs and Carians court chambers are lists of every defendant in jail for owing child support. The files are revisited weekly.
While fathers like Luna theoretically could stay in jail indefinitely if the ordered amount isnt paid, chances are the most hopeless cases will result in releases from jail after a few days or weeks, Rausch said.
The released prisoners then will be brought back to court months later to see if their attitudes have changed, he said.
Over the course of two days in the first week of June, Rausch ordered 48 people released about five of whom paid the demanded amount.
Im sympathetic with the jail population issue, said Rausch, who has been on the bench for nearly 22 years and serves on the National Judicial Child Support Task Force.
It does no good to put someone in jail and intend for them to stay there and serve out that sentence, he said. Im hoping their time in jail taught them a lesson.
At the very least, he said, it gets the attention of other parents waiting in the courtroom most of whom wont end up in jail.
On a recent day this month, prosecutors in Rauschs court collected $15,000 in back payments for children whod previously been neglected.
Rausch, who said he had a great relationship with his own father, finds it frustrating to see parents neglecting the needs of their children. He has seen scores of children cry in his office because of an absent parent. While he cant force parents to have relationships with their children, he does have the tools to make sure they support them, he said.
Were tough very tough, he said. My bedrock philosophy is, if youre going to bring a child into this world, you have to support that child. The court system is the only entity that can enforce that.
And if that means jailing parents, so be it.
If you place significance on a parents obligation to support the child, I dont see where there can be any other approach, he said.
I thought we didn’t do debtors prison any more.
This is a civil matter, not a criminal matter. The US doesn't have debtor's prison, at least it shouldn't. The last 100 years, we've criminalized WAY too much activity, and taken our eyes off actual violent, predatory offenders like murderers, rapists and pedophiles. Get the drug users, child-support avoiders out of jail and make some room for the real threats to society.
They forgot to mention all the deadbeat mothers out there.
Jail for deadbeat moms that hold children’s visitation rights as a stick to beat up men? Didn’t think so...magritte
The point about debtor’s prison is a very good one. What about the guy that doesn’t have a job and can’t get one. That’s not an unusual situation in this recession. Unemployed single mothers are given custody and government assistance. Unemployed single fathers are given child support payments and jail time if they don’t make them.
I say send all of these people to go help clean the Gulf, and pay them minimum wage.
There are 100’s of reasons why I am so glad my (awesome) daughter is now a 22 y/o college graduate, but the one relevent to this article is that there is nothing more my X-wife can even attempt to hold over me anymore.
There are mothers who don’t pay support.
The “Family” Court racket is simply that. You have “Family” Law whores....err....attorneys whom have a sole interest in soaking clients without much concern for just outcomes. You also have “Judges” (some that have no children) that are in on the racket as collection of child support money for the counties and states is a big money-maker due to the Federal dollars that will flow their way as a result.
The “system” is completely broken and no one is really interested in fixing it.
Finally, it should be noted that courts are government entities, and we’re supposed to believe they are anymore competent than any other government entity? Puh-leeze.....
No doubt but I’d wager that the overwhelming % of dead-beat parents are fathers just as the overwhelming % of single parents are mothers.
paraphrasing a support hearing that my aunt had many years ago:
Aunt: He is 14 months in arrears!
Ex: I don’t have any money.
Judge: I can send him to jail.
Aunt: How is he ever going to pay me if he is sitting in jail?
The obvious solution is to do away with court ordered child support payments.
Would that allow even more men to skate away free from all parental responsibilities. Would that not force millions of single moms with little kids into welfare?
Nope. Not if you do it right.
We need to eliminate no fault divorceses. We need to pass tax laws that support intact families - not punish them. We can easily turn around our culture of broken homes, but there’s just one problem.
It’s not in the government’s best intersts.
Big Government only grows bigger as the welfare class grows.
However theres no law requiring a custodial parent usually in Tx a woman...to be gainfully employed. They can get on bennies sit on their fat ass and do nothing but watch the soaps. but they expect the cig and beer money
Middle class men meet their “bail out” amounts - usually within 24 hours... Child Support enforcement is a positive incentive to keep marriages together...
I assume the ex did not pay for the college education.
For if she did - she could come back to you for repayment.
Is it surprising that many men don't want to honor this government imposed contract that they didn't write? Does our society really think being a father is just writing a check to a woman who once claimed to love him but now claims to hate him? How much evidence do we need that fatherless families create so many societal problems? The way our society is organizing itself is disturbing on so many levels.
It’s often not an attitude issue, it’s a flat-broke issue. This is just debtor’s prision, which in unconstitutional (not that that matters any more).
Dr Laura had a great solution for handling divorce:
The kids get the house and the parents take turns visiting.....
Jail for fraudulent abuse charges?
Mandatory DNA match for paternity?
Jail for fraudulent paternity charges?
Jail for fraudulent domestic violence charges?
Jail for secret abortions?
Jail for allowing boyfriend to abuse kids?Jail for Femanazis?
Didn't think so.
Well, you've gotten right to the crux of the matter. This isn't about children or enforcing laws, it's wholly about politics - sexual politics. To women, this is a powerful issue, and women vote en masse, and are very female issue driven.
So, politicians play to this instinct and pass these incredibly draconian laws so that they can campaign in a way that appeals to women.
Wow, just wow. I agree that jailing a deadbeat is counterproductive in most cases but surely something has to be done? My ex has already spent one 6 month stint in the county jail and is probably headed there again at the end of this month for nonpayment.
Debtors prison was bad enough but these family courts are like what you would see in Iran. The judge directs the man (typically) to give his money to the mother that is it. No trial, no jury, no rights an the judge has the power to throw you in jail without due process. In many cases the payee is not even the father but has no due process to oppose supporting some woman he had sex with for 21 years.
The current no-fault-divorce -child support system is counter-productive and somewhat immoral. The justification for the Stalin type justice is that ‘the child is entitled to the child support”. Yet, legally the money goes directly to the mother to spend on anything she wants, could be her boyfriends beer. The child has no legal right to the money (that is the flaw) nor does the father have a standing to question the direct use of the money. (He has to prove neglect which is indirect and harder to prove.)
One last complaint, the father has no say in whether his child is aborted but if the mother decides to let the baby live he must pay her. A pregnant woman can suspect that she will not get custody and decide to abort the child to avoid payments to him. The man has all the responsibilities (in most cases), no rights.
This after no-fault was the first step in encouraging women to not get married or break up families.
I think that is absolutely perfect. Today, custody isn't about the welfare of the children, it's about enriching the pocketbook of one of the parents, almost always the mothers.
The first three-day incarceration might scare some of them into paying their obligations (it would certainly scare me, if I were in this situation). But serially jailing the same individual is a complete waste of time and money and will ensure the support is never collected.
Dont pay support, go directly to jail
So much for the “good old days” when child support payments could be
avoided by going to Harris County TX (Houston) or Maricopa County AZ
(Phoenix), as long as you could work on a cash basis.
And that’s not a gender thang. I suspect some “deadbeat moms” followed
that strategy some decades ago.
I have a brother that believes strongly in 50/50 parenting.
Worst. Idea. Ever.
Why subject the kids to moving from here to there every month? It’s their idiot parents that have the problem. Let THEM move. Leave the poor kids alone.
“Jail for deadbeat moms that hold childrens visitation rights as a stick to beat up men? Didnt think so...”
I agree that is also an issue and I also agree that the system does seem to be very rigged against men in general. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not supportive of actual deadbeat parents, but I do have a question regarding the entirety of the system.
If it is a “woman’s choice” about carrying a pregnancy to term and the man has no legitimate role in deciding to keep the chile, then why is the man held completely accountable for support?
Yes, I am anti murder and I am pro responsibility. I am just pointing out another aspect of the system that is skewed against men....
Flame suit donned...
Just remember that there are other reasons for getting divorced besides dissatisfaction with one’s partner. I got divorced because my ex was abusive, both to me and to our daughter. Unfortunately, despite obvious evidence that she was more than a few cards shy of a full deck, including smart-mouthing the judge during the hearing, she still got primary custody (though we have joint conservatorship; she can’t take any actions unilaterally), and she still has 50% of my daughter’s time.
There’s no justification for keeping an abusive relationship together, nor should there be. One day, she’ll screw up, and I’ll have the incontrovertible evidence I need to show the court how bad an idea it was to allow her as much access to our daughter as she currently has. I just hope it doesn’t come at the expense of the little girl. The other hope is that she’ll one day get fed up, and just walk away, as many mothers have done in the past once they get what they think they wanted.
A guy who works for me had his son for two weeks in the summer 5 years ago. He took the boy to Oklahoma to visit the fathers parents. They were gone just over the weekend.
After the boy went back to his mother he must have mentioned going to visit Grandma and Grandpa. The ex-wife called the police and had the Dad arrested for taking the kid out of the state without the wifes permission. He did about 30 days for that.
I didnt pay him while he was in jail but was glad to get him back. Any way, he missed that months child support and only had ¾ of the next months payment. She sent the constable to arrest him for non-payment.
I loaned him the money to catch up so they wouldnt put him back in jail. But I was shocked that in Texas child support doesnt stop just because someone is in jail or the hospital.
The system sucks.
I personally watched a family court case in Orange County for 2.5 years contempt after contempt, eventually revocation of probation hearings that went on for 13 months. The only time he paid was when he thought jail was a very real threat and he couldn’t continue it another time. That pretty much resets the punishment, a full payment.
During the times that I observed (which was pretty much 1 or 2 Fridays EACH month) I saw women as the non-custodial non paying parent exactly 4 times. Twice it was the same woman who’d been injured in a work accident. There were 30-60 men for “contempt Friday” each week.
I also saw 5 men sent to jail for a weekend to 30 days for non-payment.
I see how some people see it as a debtors prison, but if the parent that wasn’t paying lived in the home, didn’t watch their child and didn’t pay for food or clothes or take care of their child, it would be a criminal case of neglect. If they are non-custodial though, there are no charges like that, so it has to be based on what is court ordered which is support.
I saw a very low amount of people who couldn’t actually find work. I saw at least 75% of (typically) men who just didn’t want to pay child support, they had a second family, or they were working cash jobs, had their own businesses and just weren’t going to pay. I saw another relatively small amount of people that were injured, or ill, or perhaps mentally ill that in all likelihood couldn’t pay and couldn’t keep a job.
I personally think if the counties could figure out how to make it a profit center like a private company, they could be very creative in the ways of collecting money and making money. Somehow though with federal back end money, and certain quota’s - plus the reluctance to look profitable it isn’t happening. But it could!
(and yes, I’m a bit biased as the mom who worked two jobs, and made it to watch the proceedings.)
“Child Support enforcement is a positive incentive to keep marriages together..”
Yes for him, I suspect quite the opposite is true for her.
That is an excellent idea.
“So, politicians play to this instinct and pass these incredibly draconian laws so that they can campaign in a way that appeals to women.”
Even though women have a slightly higher rate of being deadbeats than men.
you thought wrong; “Texas-the incarceration state, we’ve built one for you!” And.....when Obamacare kicks in, failure to provide proof of health insurance, failure to pay the penalties........go to jail.
Welcome to Serfdom Sucker!
With all due respect, how do you expect your ex to pay from inside a jail cell? To get a job so he can pay if a potential employer sees him labeled as a “deadbeat dad” who is likely to go to jail again soon?
Or does he have the money and just won’t pay? In that case, lock him up.
Today, custody isn’t about the welfare of the children, it’s about enriching the pocketbook of one of the parents, almost always the mothers.
Funny thing is that both parents are worse off after the divorce. Take a guy making $40,000. Put a $1000 a month child support payment on him. He can barely survive. And the woman getting the $1,000 a month has her rent or mortgage paid for . . . maybe. Both are worse off and they both bitch and bitch about it and get bitter . . . Problem is divorce.
How are parents supposed to be able to do a job earn money and pay support if they are in Jail?
In my experience (in Massachusetts) the judges will not put a father in jail if he’s making an effort. My buddy lost his job recently, but goes out of his way to take care of his two boys and see’s them 4 days a week.
His psycho ex can’t claim he’s a neglectful father as he sees the boys all the time, takes care of them more than just the odd weekend here and there.
A father is more than just a checkbook. Unfortunately, many single moms don’t see it that way. At least the judge in my buddies case is understanding of the tough economy.
My brother is going through this in New York. He’s separated from his wife and lives in an apartment a mile away from their house. He sees his 3 boys everyday, takes them to school, activities, the doctor etc.
He has a full-time job and pays support and has managed at least a problem-solving relationship with his ex. Overall, the situation stinks for all concerned, except the ex. She had the affair, ruined the marriage, yet gets to stay in the house and receive child support. At least he doesn’t pay any alimony...
Please re read my post. I said that I agree that in most cases jailing them is counterproductive. He will work for awhile and then as soon as the courts catch up to him he quits. He works cash jobs under the table. He has several years of income tax he has refused to file for because the court would seize it.
Well yeah, how many women are forced to pay child support? And how many men get custody in a divorce.
If women dont have to pay support, then of course there will be more men who dont pay pay support than woment.
What is the % of men who are ordered to pay support and dont? Then, what is the % of women ordered to pay support and dont. Then compare those answeres.
Jail is an incentive to pay. If you don’t pay - you go to jail.
Secondly, jail is an incentive for others to look and learn. My 24 year old unmarried son has watched his uncles suffer through “family court” for years.
He knows better than to get married and have kids.
“Won’t happen”; he says.
Which is very sad. Consider what our Country has done to familes.
Smart men today are RUNNING away from marriage and having children.
Who can blame them?
Uh.....no. If the threat of child support is the only reason to remain married, then it's a lost cause.
Its dumb, with unemployment so high, you cannot get blood from a stone...I think most fathers do support their kids, but sometimes the Friend of the Court makes support payments so high the guy cannot even pay his rent. No man wants to move back with their parents.....
What about a guy that according to state guidelines should have been paying over $700 a month but his ex actually asked the court to lower it to $400 a month and he still refuses to even attempt to pay anything?
I don’t blame them at all. I am a victim of my husbands ex-girlfriend who has used the welfare system as a vindictive tool. The hag makes 65 THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR! And uses the welfare system of the state. Pathetic.