New York, NY asked in Divorce, Child Support and Family Law for New York

Q: When do judges actually put people in jail for not paying child support?

I've been supporting my child and paying far more than my support obligation. But I haven't been paying it through the state as required in the order because my ex-wife won't pay for anything. So I pay for school, camps, sports, all of that. Now I have an arrearage and my ex wants me incarcerated even though I've well overpaid what the order required. I can't imagine a judge would incarcerate a person under those circumstances, and I'll start paying through the state and hoping my child isn't deprived of anything, but could I seriously be put in jail for that?

2 Lawyer Answers
Lawrence Allen Weinreich
Lawrence Allen Weinreich
  • Garden City, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: Unfortunately, the answer is yes you can be put in jail. You failed to follow the order and thus you disobeyed the court. There is law that says since you didn't pay per the order, anything you did pay was a gift. I strongly urge you to get an attorney to represent you on this matter.

Peter Christopher Lomtevas
Peter Christopher Lomtevas pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Schenectady, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: There are two kinds of jail inmates today: the ones who were convicted and sentenced to crimes, and young parents. We got that by voting carelessly.

Without an understanding of what the asker's arrearage actually is, we cannot offer an accurate answer, though that is not what the asker is asking for. He wants to know if jail is an outcome available to the court when it enforces its order of support. The answer is a resounding yes.

The manner in which the rule is written echoes America's sentiment that all young fathers are inherently non-supportive. The statue, Article 4 of the Family Court Act, is a streamlined piece that leads to an order of support on the first appearance for the custodial parent's asking. Stated another way, the person to strike first who says she has the kid wins the order of support.

Jail is a tool every family and divorce court uses to squeeze performance out of parents. Monetary fines are the next way.

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