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Jail is a possibility for failing to pay child support


There is no doubt that a child support dispute is problematic. A common concern among supporting parents in Texas is whether their failure to pay child support will send them to jail. The state has several penalties that it will assess for parents who fail to pay child support and jail is one of them. While it is preferable for parents to pay for their child support or to settle these important family law issues another way, jail is a possibility if the circumstances warrant it.


Both the custodial and the supporting parent must understand the reality of incarceration and take steps to avoid it if possible since it does no one - especially the child - any good. A person who has not paid his or her child support can be jailed for as long as six months. The incarceration will be based on contempt of court meaning that the person is not adhering to a court order. In addition, there can be a fine of as much as $500 for every violation and the court costs and attorney's fees will have to be paid by the parent.

In certain instances, the parent who is not paying the amount of child support that is owed can be incarcerated for a specific period or until the fine has been paid. This comes about if a person is subject to criminal prosecution and convicted of a felony.

While a failure to pay child support is often perceived as shunning responsibility, there could be a justifiable reason for it such as job loss or a significant change in financial circumstances. It is essential that the state be informed of any changes. Perhaps a modification to the order is possible to change the amount that is supposed to be paid. Another agreement can be worked out to keep the supporting parent from reaching the worst-case scenario of incarceration. Speaking to an attorney who is experienced in family law can help with these matters and assist with a parent who might be facing jail for a failure to pay child support.

Source: texasattorneygeneral.gov, "Handbook for Noncustodial Parents -- Can I be put in jail for not paying child support?, page 19," accessed on May 1, 2017

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Jamie Graham & Associates, PLLC
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