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Will a prison sentence increase child support payments?

There are a lot of determining factors when it comes to child support agreements. Often the income of both spouses is taken into consideration as well as the cost of raising a child. There are expenses related to education and health in addition to the everyday cost of feeding and clothing someone.

But sometimes circumstances beyond the control of either spouse results in a halt to child support payments. Unexpected unemployment could make it nearly impossible for one parent to make the monthly payments, thereby putting the custodial parent in a financially tight spot.

You may recall from several previous posts that there are a number of different consequences for parents who have delinquent child support payments. The most recent one that has raised some eyebrows in the public sector is a jail sentence. In fact, a recent case in Georgia involves six parents who were jailed for failure to pay child support.

Should parents be jailed if they miss child support payments? Does it make sense? The purpose of child support is to ensure that the child is taken care of. But is jailing a parent only making the situation worse? Once in jail, the parent has no way of making the payments, especially if he or she was financially unable to pay prior to incarceration.

The inability to pay could be partially due to the economic recession as some parents may have found themselves unemployed or in debt. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, during the course of a year:

  • Less than 50 percent of parents owed child support receive the full amount
  • Approximately 30 percent receive only part of the payment
  • Less than 25 percent do not receive any child support owed them

But does incarcerating a parent make a difference? Will it really help increase the amount of child support collected?

Source: International Business Times: "Not Paying Child Support Means Jail Time for Some, Even When They Can't Pay," Sept. 12, 2011

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