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Man jailed for not being able to afford child support payments

Right now a judge's decision in Georgia is being questioned due to a man being held in jail for not paying child support, even though he literally had only 39 cents in his account at the time of his arrest.

The 39-year-old father and veteran, was jailed for not being able to pay child support for his 16-year-old daughter. According to sources, after losing his job the man fell behind by only making partial payments, and eventually also lost his home to foreclosure.

Due to his financial situation, it is being argued that putting him in jail is unconstitutional, with the man's attorney arguing that even the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a judge cannot throw someone in jail for not paying things like child support or fines if the person honestly does not have the financial means to make the payments.

However, in this situation an attorney for Georgia's Office of Child Support Services is arguing that while judges cannot jail someone for civil contempt if he or she does not have money to pay, there is still an exemption that those inmates who are jailed can go to work-release centers where he or she will go out and work during the day, but then have to stay at the center at night. This 39-year-old father chose the work-release center, which still isn't enough financially. 

According to sources, while at the work-release center, in addition to paying $135 a week for child support, he also has to pay $140 a week for room and board. However, even though he is working, his part time job assembling furniture just isn't making enough money, and he will now also have to get a second job.

While this man's story takes places in Georgia, during a tough economy it no doubt affects parents throughout the country. And, with unemployment rates still high, it's safe to assume that without child support modification orders these situations will continue to arise in courts throughout the U.S.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Jail for child support debt questioned," Bill Rankin, 15 Dec 2010

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