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Child Support Civil Contempt Hearing, First Time, Will I Go To Jail?

Beckley, WV |

I've been ordered to appear at a civil hearing for contempt of court for non-payment of child support. I have been sporadically employed over the course of the last few years through no fault of my own. I am currently employed and having my wages garnished to make child support payments, but due to the nature of my job, we're in an "off season" right now, where there isn't very much work to be done, thus I've not been able to make a full payment. But I am making payments nonetheless. I am currently just over $20,000 in arrears and this is the first time I've been summoned to court over this. What should I expect from this? Will I face jail time?

I should probably also note that the job I currently have, I've only had for about 6 weeks now. I got it after they had started the paperwork for the contempt case, but before I actually myself found out about it. I have no idea if that makes any difference at all.

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Attorney answers 2

Best Answer
Posted

Anything could happen, even a first time in court on contempt, given this arrearage. You should have been filing modifications to deal with loss of jobs and seasonal downturns. But that is now water under the bridge. make sure child support is adjusted to account for your present seasonal downturn. I would very much have a lawyer with you.

To questioners from West Virginia & New York: Although I am licensed to practice in your state (in WV, on inactive status as of 9/13), I practice on a day-to-day basis in Massachusetts. I answer questions in your state in areas of the law in which I practice, and in which I feel comfortable trying to offer you assistance based on my knowledge of specific statutes in your state and/or general principles applicable in all states. It is always best, however, to work with attorneys and court personnel in your own area to deal with specific problems and factual situations.

Asker

Posted

I had been told by a friend that given this is my first time in court for this, regardless of the arrearage amount and given that I have no criminal history or anything like that, that the most likely scenario would be that the judge would set a certain date for me to have x amount of money paid off to avoid jail and not just jail me right there on the spot. Does this sound likely? If I do indeed end up in jail, how much time would I likely be looking at? I've heard everywhere from a couple weeks to 6 months to indefinitely until the arrearages are entirely paid off, which I'm not sure how I'd do that ever since I legitimately do not have that amount of money. I also don't have money to afford an attorney, what would your advice be on that? Talk to Legal Aid or ask for a court appointed attorney at the hearing?

Thomas J Callahan

Thomas J Callahan

Posted

It is unlikely you'll go to jail the first time, but possible. Whatever happens, you will be ordered to start paying off that arrearage. If the current amount of support is too high, you should be filing a modification. Yes, talk to Legal Aid. You won't get a court-appointed attorney except possibly for the one hearing only if you are facing jail.

Asker

Posted

Mr. Callahan, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Thank you very much for your time and sharing your knowledge on this matter with me. You have sincerely been a tremendous help.

Thomas J Callahan

Thomas J Callahan

Posted

You're welcome.

Posted

Anything over $7,000 in arrears in WV is a serious offense. You really need the guidance of a skilled family law attorney in Beckley that can defend you in the contempt proceeding and work on a modification of your child support obligations for the future. Good luck.

My answers to questions are for general purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or establish any attorney-client relationship.