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Will i go to jail for being arreared $4000 in child support?

San Antonio, TX |

I was ordered to pay child support but i lost my job 1 month after the order and I have been seriously struggling with finances, ive made 4 payments in a year as i have payed what i could, when i could, i have court at the end of the month and im frightened that i may go to jail, i just got a job and i'm afraid they will put me in jail and im back to square 1

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Despite the common notion that we do not have "debtor's prison" in Texas, it is possible to go to jail for failure to pay child support. This is because a child support obligation is an order of the court. As such, the failure to pay support is akin to disregarding the Judge's ruling. That being said, at the enforcement hearing (I am presuming that is the type of hearing you have at the end of the month), the Judge will hear the evidence and make a decision based on what your circumstances are. I do not know whether or not you have filed a modification order since your circumstances have changed, but assuming you did not, the Court could very possibly hold you responsible for all of these arrearages (notwithstanding your circumstances). However, it is not a given that jail time will be ordered. A common scenario is that the Judge will give you another opportunity to "make good" on your payments. If that order is disregarded, that is when more severe punishments take place. In the meantime, gather all of the evidence to show that you paid what you could as well as how your circumstances changed since the last order. Good luck.

    The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. This response is only the educated opinion of the author and should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might be different. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of Texas and any responses will be based on Texas law unless stated otherwise.


  2. Despite the common notion that we do not have "debtor's prison" in Texas, it is possible to go to jail for failure to pay child support. This is because a child support obligation is an order of the court. As such, the failure to pay support is akin to disregarding the Judge's ruling. That being said, at the enforcement hearing (I am presuming that is the type of hearing you have at the end of the month), the Judge will hear the evidence and make a decision based on what your circumstances are. I do not know whether or not you have filed a modification order since your circumstances have changed, but assuming you did not, the Court could very possibly hold you responsible for all of these arrearages (notwithstanding your circumstances). However, it is not a given that jail time will be ordered. A common scenario is that the Judge will give you another opportunity to "make good" on your payments. If that order is disregarded, that is when more severe punishments take place. In the meantime, gather all of the evidence to show that you paid what you could as well as how your circumstances changed since the last order. Good luck.

    The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. This response is only the educated opinion of the author and should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might be different. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of Texas and any responses will be based on Texas law unless stated otherwise.


  3. It is a defense to the non-payment of support that you were unemployed. If you can prove that is the case, it will most likely keep you out of jail. However, when you are employed you have to pay the court ordered amount. I also suggest you pay toward the arrears as well.

    Good luck.


  4. You certainly can be put in jail, and the judges in Bexar County are more likely to put you in jail for child support arrears than almost any other county in the state. Because of the amount you are behing I would suggest trying to get as much money together as you can for a lump sum payment. If you can come up with $500-$1000 and ensure that you make you regular support payment for this month, you can likely avoid jail and just have the judge put you on probation and suspend any potential jail sentence.
    Ivan Friedman
    www.ivanfriedman.com

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