Many of our readers here in Texas have no doubt heard the story of the man who was sentenced to six months behind bars for failing to pay child support simply due to a clerical error. As has been widely reported, he not only paid the overdue support once he learned what had happened, but paid additional money. According to a June 23 report by KTRK-TV, the Houston man paid $1,000 beyond what he owed for the support of his 12-year-old son.
So why is he still facing what to many seems like an unnecessarily harsh punishment? Some people blame the judge who sentenced him, accusing that judge of being racist or crooked. According to his attorney, however, the judge was abiding by the law. The problem, she says, is the law that Texas passed last June. That law repealed protections for people who fall behind on child support payments even if they make up the payments.
According to the attorney, what happened to her client last November after the law went into effect "couldn't have happened in May 2013." She is working to get "federal purging protection" by Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court so that Texas parents have the right to correct child support payment issues. "In Texas our parents lost that right in June 2013, she says."
The law targets deadbeat parents who knowingly withhold child support payments for months on end. Many of those parents, the attorney noted, suddenly find the money when threatened with jail. She says she agrees that people who "willfully" withhold payments should face imprisonment. The new Texas law, however, "doesn't protect the person that does not willfully fall behind."
This case has received widespread coverage because of the seeming egregiousness and unfairness of putting a father in jail who, according to his attorney, never meant to withhold child support and then tried to do the right thing and then some to make up for the error. However, many divorces and child custody cases have difficult problems. That's why it's essential to rely on your Texas family law attorney not just during the initial divorce proceedings but in the ensuing years. You never know what issues will pop up.
Source: theroot.com, "A Matter of Law: What Everyone Is Missing About the Texas Child Support Case," June 27, 2014