Is jail the right punishment for non-payment of child support?

There are many ways Massachusetts handles parents who do not fulfill their child support obligations. In most cases, this involves extra fees and fines. Sometimes cases are handled in more serious ways, including taking the person’s driver’s license or putting them in jail. You may be wondering why someone would be jailed and if that really is the right way to handle this situation. 

Consider this. You have fallen behind on your child support because you have been unemployed or you have had your hours cut at work. You have not been able to ask for a review of your case or otherwise been able to get your support obligation revised to match your financial situation. This has led to you falling way behind on your support payments. You finally get a good paying job and can start to pay back the support, but it is too late. A warrant has been issued for your arrest for the back support. How would you feel?

Many people think it is counterproductive to send someone to jail for not paying child support, according to the New York Times. The argument is that a person cannot keep a good job that enables them to pay if they are sent to jail. In a situation like the one above, you would lose that new job when you went to jail. Then, you would be back to where you started. It is a process where it is tough to get ahead. 

There have been fights to stop jailing people who fall behind on child support due to lack of income and reserve it only for those who are actively avoiding paying. However, the laws remain unchanged in many states. This information is for education and is not legal advice. 

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