Miss child support payment, go to jail

And good luck making those payments once you’ve lost your job or license. The Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina has focused belated attention on the “deadbeat-dad” rules crafted variously to please budget hawks, women’s rights advocates, and conservatives, which in practice can pile hopelessly large obligations on low-earning fathers, enforced in some states not only by jailing but also by deprivation of drivers’ and occupational licenses instrumental in earning a living. I’ve got more at Cato at Liberty, following up on New York Times coverage.


  • Not to make this a gender issue but the other important item left unsaid is very few deadbeat mothers are penalized regardless of the supposed gender neutral law. I remember years ago reading a paper on that and it was in the low single digits for ANY sanction much less real penalties. I remember one novel solution a judge came up with was to take the child from the custodial father and give it to the non-paying mother for the good of the child ofc because the father would supplement the mothers income as she wouldn’t pay anyways.

  • A co-worker of mine was threatened with jail for failure to pay child support. The problem was that he had a court order granting him custody of his children. The Department of Welfare said that it was no excuse. Figure that one out.

  • “And good luck making those payments once you’ve lost your job or license.”

    Don’t be a deadbeat sperm/egg donor and you won’t have to worry about this.
    I paid over $105K, never lost a job or had my DL suspended. It’s called responsibility.

    Don’t want responsibility? I strongly urge you to learn what contraception is and to
    use it every chance you get.

    • …never lost a job …

      people often mistake good fortune for skill. Many people do lose jobs through no fault of their own. Typically they can get back on their feet quickly enough. But support payments are not like a real household. When the kids are in your household, the very next trip to the grocery has more macaroni and less meat, the trip to the clothing store is deferred till later, and other expenses are immediately reduced or deferred.
      But when the kid is with the other parent, the support payment continues unabated by any sense of fiscal responsibility.

      It is odd that legislatures and courts have granted kids in divorce the right to greater economic stability than kids in intact households. Only a small step perhaps before courts order employers to pay ‘support’ upon termination.

    • That’s great for you Chish. Unfortunately, not everyone is in the same situation as you. As the last decade has taught us all too well, plenty of people lose jobs through no fault of their own. You can be as responsible as you can be, but if your company goes out of business, you’re out of a job. And when a lot of other people are in the same boat, it’s hard to find another one.

      As for contraception, consider the spread of abstinence-only sex education in schools before you judge too much. We can’t expect people to properly use contraception if all they’ve been taught is that sex outside of marriage is sinful. Not to mention that it’s perfectly reasonable for someone to make a responsible decision that they are able to raise a child and then later fall on hard times. Unless you’re going to somehow require prospective parents to post a massive cash bond, that’s going to happen.

      We have to deal with the problem as it currently exists, not as you’d like the world to be in your fantasyland. Right now, today, actual people are tossed in and out of jail and/or are losing their drivers licenses due to non-payment of child support they can’t afford to pay. This causes them to lose their jobs (or be unable to get to their jobs), which causes them to fall further behind, causing more jail. This doesn’t help anyone. Shaming people about responsibility isn’t very helpful when it comes to the actual problem we’re talking about here.

  • It would make more sense to have “weekend” or “evening” incarceration for deadbeats so they could still continue to work.

    However, specifically for the Walter Scott case–if he didn’t have the money, why did he just buy a (used) Mercedes, and new wheels and rims for said car?

    • From the Washington Post, in case you believe that the “new car, wheels, and rims” was an unsubstantiated rumor.


      An attorney for Scott’s family told the Post that the father of four had just gotten a new job at a trucking supply company and had recently proposed to his girlfriend, and that the car he was driving – a Mercedes-Benz – was recently purchased.

      According to James Johnson, president of the local branch of the National Action Network, Scott bought the vehicle just three days before the shooting.

      South Carolina police officer shoots man after traffic stop(3:00)
      Editor’s note: This video contains graphic content. A police officer in North Charleston, S.C., has been charged with murder after shooting a man following a traffic stop. Authorities said the decision to charge officer Michael T. Slager was made after they viewed video footage of the incident that showed him shooting the man in the back as he was fleeing the scene. (Obtained by The Washington Post)
      After buying it, he also purchased a set of silver rims that he placed on the wheels, which has led the Scott family to believe that racial profiling was the reason for the traffic stop.

      “His brother told him that he would be a target for putting those rims on that car,” Johnson said. “He bought the car, the next day he bought the rims. Then, two days later, he was pulled over and he was killed.”

  • From my in asset protection and debtor’s rights, jail time doesn’t hit the non-paying parent unless they have the means to pay and don’t. Loss of job is a reason that judges accept and won’t hold a parent criminally liable.

  • […] even if one accepts revenue maximization as their sole purpose (earlier from me at Cato and here). Some other views: NYT “Room for […]