Child support is a legal obligation for those ordered to pay it. When people don't make child support payments in full and on time, children and those caring for them can suffer greatly. Thanks to one sheriff's office and the state attorney general, 16 people recently learned that Texas takes child support seriously.
Last month, the Jefferson County sheriff, with help from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office, arrested people who had not been paying court-ordered child support. They are facing contempt of court charges and up to six months in prison.
This was not a one-time operation. According to a spokesperson for the sheriff's office and the AG's office, they may do several of these sweeps annually. That's in addition to individual arrests throughout the year.
This latest sweep brought in people owing a total of $532,000. Jefferson County collected $110 million in child support in the fiscal year that ended last August. The state overall collected $3.6 billion in that same time period. Cash bonds posted by those arrested are given to the parents owed the support money.
The Jefferson County sheriff's spokesman noted that they made arrests in homes as well as the workplaces of those who owed money. However, he noted that people who know they are behind on their payments can contact the Attorney General's Child Support Division to avoid the embarrassment of an arrest. That division also helps locate missing parents, establish paternity and assists with child support as well as medical support orders.
It's generally not in anyone's best interest if the negligent spouse goes to jail. Sometimes payment plans can be worked out or support orders can be amended if there are extenuating circumstances. Family law attorneys can also help people who are having difficulty collecting child support or spousal support.
Source: The Port Arthur News, "Sixteen arrested in child support sweep" Sherry Koonce, Mar. 27, 2014