What happens when you go to court for back child support?

I am $3,251 behind in child support. I have a full-time job that pays well and every 2 weeks they are taking out $128, which is $256 per month. I have a court date next month. I just want to know if I will go to jail? That will mean I will loose everything I have.

Asked on September 23, 2012 under Family Law, Texas


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Several things could happen, but much of it will depend on the attitude of your judge.  Some will appreciate that you are gradually making progress on your payments.  As long as you are making a sincere effort, many judges just want to see you and remind you to keep putting your best foot foward.  However, other judges are a bit more demanding.  If you have a hard judge, he could order you to be held in contempt for failure to pay your obligations.  If the judge is mad enough with you, he could require you to serve a number of days in couty jail.  For many judges, this is usually a last resort.

If the worst does happen and he does order you into jail, ask that your sentence date be delayed to that you do not loose your employment.  Judges do not like doing things that will cost parents an opportunity for money as well.  The contempt action is just a motivator for parents to get their funds together.

As far as other options..... Make sure you take good documentation with you to prove tht you have been making and will continue to make your child support oglibations.  Documentation could included weekly pay stubs, income tax returns, or any other relevent documention which helps explain why you could not make the payments as required.  Inability to pay is still a defense.  If you have any extra cash, see if your ex- will accept the lump sum as a good faith catch up payment.  Judges also like seeing significant efforts.  The more effort they see, the less likely they are to throw you in jail.

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