Feds Try to Slow Incarceration for Child Support Debt

hands on bars

hands on barsby Robert Franklin, Esq.

Fathers and Families

The U.S. Administration for Children and Families has issued a directive that may substantially reduce states’ power to incarcerate non-custodial parents for failure to pay child support.  Read about it here (The Nerve, 7/30/12).

Last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that child support debtors who faced jail for non-payment had no right to have an attorney appointed at state expense to represent them.  The ruling by Justice Steven Breyer was a classic case of a former corporate lawyer and Supreme Court Justice with no concept of what indigent fathers actually face when charged with contempt.  Far above the fray in his Supreme Court office, surrounded by clerks who are the cream of the law school crop, Breyer imagined a scenario in which the very judges hearing the cases would assist penniless fathers in understanding and asserting their rights.  Almost simultaneously with Breyer’s ruling, Atlanta attorney Sarah Geraghty described what actually happens in those cases.  When faced with a courtroom full of child support debtors, many of them indigent and many more unable to understand or assert their rights, judges routinely allocate a matter of seconds to each case.  Where Breyer got the idea that those judges have the time, the patience, the inclination or indeed the ethical obligation to, in essence, represent those fathers against the state that pays their salaries is anyone’s guess.  But the truth is they don’t and won’t.

If interested in discussing family law matters such as custody, you can contact Keith Berkshire, Certified Specialist In Family Law, State Bar of Arizona, at kberkshire@roselawgroup.com


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August 2012