How often do deadbeat dads go to jail?

Where I’m at, Legal Aid does assist with at least the child support/custody aspect of things (I was never married, so not sure about divorce). I know because I didn’t qualify for their services in the beginning (and, towards the end when I would have qualified, the attorney I consulted with actually said I didn’t need their services) which is also why I know how the court website in this state is set up. And, here anyway, I did contact some of those agencies mentioned by Ben above and not one of them would TOUCH a custody case, basically because they have such great potential of being very drawn out and arduous.

That might be true even in a state like mine but if it’s a choice between just plain not paying and at least attempting to get the mod, I think people should at least try. Maybe not the best idea, but better to try that than get your license pulled, wind up in jail, and whatever other ways various places deal with noncompliance.

I had a lawyer for the first part of our custody thing and then stopped being able to afford him. I did child support mods, parenting time assistance (had the father put on supervised visits), etc. without him. It’s scary to be a Not Lawyer up against an actual lawyer when you’re in front of a judge but, for me, it was infinitely better than doing nothing at all. That’s all I’m saying. It may not be optimal, but it’s better than doing nothing at all.

Every such program sets their own priorities. Some do handle domestic cases, others focus on housing, or various other aspects of poverty law.

Interesting article… moral of the story: don’t ignore the court system.

Thanks for the education, y’all. I think our state is too poor to offer any of these services, but it’s nice to know that some states do.

I find it odd that the discussion has focused exclusively on the “deadbeat,” usually the father, who does not pay court-ordered child support. There is another party to the case, who also has a court order with which they are compelled to comply: the Mother must make the child or children available for court-ordered visitation. How many times has the mother been held in contempt for intentionally, and maliciously, violating the visitation order and been thrown in jail? I have not done the research, but I would be surprised if it happens at all, or, at most a tiny fraction of the times fathers have been jailed for contempt for not paying support. Don’t get me wrong: if you have caused a child to be born, you have an obligation to ensure that child’s support. I am only referring to the injustice of the court system in not applying the same standard of enforcement to both cases of willful disregard of lawful court orders.

It is also unfair to fathers that, if you had a good-paying job at the time the support order was entered, and, through no fault of your own (layoffs, RIF, etc.) are no longer earning the same as you were then, the amount of the support payment does not go down. You are still obligated to pay according to your earning potential, whether or not the economy has employment at that salary available. And you will be held in contept if you do not.

On the other hand, if you are the mother, and just don’t like your ex, you may cause the child(ren) to simply not “be there” when the court-ordered visitation is supposed to happen, and all the father can do is file a motion in court, at his own expense, and, when he wins, he has a court order compelling the mother to comply with the original order compelling her to make the child(ren) available at a specified time and place. And if she continues to disregard the lawful court order, why, he has the right, again at his own expense, to take her back before the judge to repeat the scenario ad nauseum.

At no time are sanctions even contemplated whereby the mother would lose her freedom for being in contempt of a lawful court order.

How many times have the fathers in these cases simply given up on “the System” and left to start a new life? Only now, they are considered “Deadbeats,” and the target of scorn and shame for “abandoning” their children.

Not often enoough.

Too often. Putting someone in jail, taking away their licenses and other punitive measures may help with ones feelings for revenge but does nothing but hinder the ability to earn and pay.

The cases I usually deal with a warant is issued and when the person is arrested they go off to county jail with no bail. At some point in the near future the subject is seen by a superior court judge. At that time he is usually given a chance to set up payments and is released. Hard to make payments from jail.

I’m curious if anyone has ever thought to have the state pay out the actual money to the support reciever.

The way I think it through is that a divorce happens and the court awards the child support by what ever means it currently does, nothing changes there.

So who ever is paying child support, automatically gets their paycheck garnished by the state, and then the state would payout the support via one of its current programs.

Was this ever tried , or simply never even looked at.


I think that’s a method most states use, Declan.

From here.

Sort of, with Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program.


No, +1000

Your state most definitely offers these services…

MS Legal Services
The funds come mainly from

Legal Services Corporation

Also, every state has a child support enforcement program. Often run through the human services department, sometimes through the Attorney General’s office or otherwise.

I have personally tried women for contempt on failure to pay child support, and they went to jail same as the men.

I have also seen women lose primary custody and child support, plus be ordered to pay child support, as a result of willful and deliberate denial of visitation. In my experience, which includes 15 years of practicing family law in a very Red state, the days of men getting routinely screwed in favor of women in custody/support cases are over. It’s a level playing field now. Men are fighting for, and winning, custody more often than ever before. The amount of support can be, and is, when properly requested, reduced when an unavoidable reduction in income on the part of the payor has occurred.

I’m glad to hear that - and while I don’t doubt you in the least - its going to take along time for the other perception to go away.

As mentioned, states already do that, but it doesn’t always help enforce payment. In my case, my daughter’s mother pays through the state by having it automatically deducted and put directly into my bank account. It’s much simpler than mailing me a check every week. However, I’ve only gotten a couple of payments over three years. They’re only there to make payments easy, enforcement has to be done through the court.

Before anyone asks…

… that’s my opinion. I could take her to court, and I may someday, but right now it wouldn’t accomplish anything except making her life miserable.

I’m glad the field is leveling, but my from my perspective (which includes my anecdotal experience, feedback from men who have been through the ‘system’, and from lawyers who do DR work) the field no is where near level yet. Not even close.

I cannot and do not have an impartial POV. That said, my experience----and that of more than a few friends-----is that an angry/embittered ex-wife is quite capable of conveniently not having the kids available for visitation. I know that severe cases warrant legal action, but theres plenty of ex-wives who use visitation as punishment and as a weapon. Plenty. From my experience, the courts have little interest in getting in the middle of every squabble, and act of garden variety idiocy. That gives ex-wives all kinds of latitude to continue all kinds of violations. DHMO’s 3rd paragraph is exactly the way it plays out IME. Exactly.

IME, the field appears to be level on dead beat dads and dead beat moms. I routinely hear of tax returns being intercepted and contempt hearings for back child support.

What doesn’t seem level to me is the granting of custody in the first place. In every situation I’m aware of, the man had to go out of his way to prove/establish his record of involvement. My lawyer (who is a woman, btw) said that a man is “guilty until proven innocent” as far custody is concerned, and that if things were even close, the woman will win custody nearly 100% of the time.

In my experience, I was required to establish things that were simply taken for granted as far my ex-wife was concerned. The other thing I find as inequitable is the standard order for visitation. Every other weekend, and Wednesday for dinner-----something like parts of 6 days in each 30 day period----is much less than fair to the man, and unfair to the kids.

While I don’t doubt that such things often happen, note that there are also lots of ex-husbands who don’t comply with their court obligations either (cf. Chefguy’s comment about the huge backlog of unpaid child support in Oregon, for instance).

So I think Oakminster’s comment about having “a level playing field now” should probably be interpreted to mean not that women never get away with disregarding their family-court-imposed obligations, but merely that nowadays they’re not significantly more likely to get away with it in court decisions than men are.

I quite agree that we shouldn’t think of “deadbeating” or other forms of shafting kids and non-custodial parents as behavior that only fathers are guilty of. However, there are still an awful lot of fathers out there guilty of such behavior. Naturally, variations in individual experience plus confirmation bias are going to produce very different opinions in different individuals about where the bulk of the problem lies.

I’m out of date, then.

That part I did know.