Father was sentenced to six months in jail despite having caught up on payments
A Houston father has been released from jail after serving one week of a six-month sentence for failure to pay child support, according to ABC 13 News. The case garnered widespread media attention because, not only had the man caught up on his back child support payments, but he claims that his original failure to pay support was due to a clerical error by his employer that he was unaware of.
Error leads to incorrect payments
The man’s former spouse, and the mother of his son, sued him last year for failing to make child support payments in full. The man, however, claims that it was not until he received notice of the lawsuit that he realized he was behind on the child support payments, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Those payments were supposed to be garnished from his pay by his employer; however, a clerical error led to the wrong amount being garnished and the man, as a result, unknowingly fell behind on his payments. When the man discovered that he was behind, he paid the amount owed. However, that payment was not enough for a Texas judge who ordered the man to serve a six-month sentence for his failure to pay the child support in the first place.
Change in family law
The man’s sentence is being blamed on a change that was recently made to Texas family law. Previously, people who were behind on child support were able to avoid punishment if they paid the amount owed before their court date.
Texas lawmakers changed that rule to allow judges to sentence people with back child support to jail, regardless of whether they had caught up on payments and even if the back payments were simply due to a clerical error. In this case, the man’s attorney claims the judge who issued the six-month sentence was simply constrained by the law. In addition to the back child support, the man had also been sentenced for allegedly violating a visitation agreement.
Child support issues
While the above case is unusual, it should serve as a warning to all other parents involved in contentious child support and custody disputes. Such disputes have the potential to not only cause severe financial stress to parents, but they can also severely impact the important emotional bonds between a child and his or her parents. Furthermore, as this case shows, failure to pay child support is taken very seriously by courts in Texas.
Anybody who has child support or custody issues that they need resolved should immediately contact a highly qualified family law attorney. With experienced legal advice, parents will have the help they need to make sure their family law concerns are dealt with swiftly and satisfactorily.