Readers in New Jersey may find it hard to believe that a man could have 15 paternity suits filed against him by nine different women. According to court records, however, that's exactly what has happened. The man, who resides in Nebraska, owes almost $80,000 in back child support for 14 children. The amounts date back to November 1984.
Recently, a district judge issued 11 bench warrants for the man's arrest. He was booked into jail the next day, but was back out again within 24 hours. The judge found the man in contempt in each of the 11 cases. He was sentenced to 60 to 180 days for each case- almost four and a half years total.
Despite the contempt orders, the judge suspended the sentences and put him on a "purge plan," which allows him avoid the contempt orders, so long as he pays what he owes. In order to do so, he will have to start paying $500 a month in child support, in addition to another $800 in back support by December 1. If the man does not pay, he will go to jail.
This story brings up an important topic in family law: enforcement of child support. In 1984, Congress enacted The Child Support Enforcement Act. The Act empowers district attorneys to help those seeking to collect child support from an ex-spouse or parent who refuses to follow a court order requiring payment of child support. In most cases, the district attorney will serve the ex-spouse with papers, instructing him or her to meet with the district attorney in order to arrange a payment schedule.
If a person fails to follow the instructions, jail time could be imposed. However, this can be counterproductive, because a person cannot earn wages while he or she is behind bars. Therefore, jail time is usually ordered as a last resort. This might have been the case in the story above.
Since jail time is usually avoided, there are other consequences and penalties that a district attorney can impose for failure to pay child support. It is important for anyone trying to collect child support owed to them to know and understand his or her rights involved.
Source: Journal Star, "Man owes $80K in back child support; has 15 paternity cases," Jonathan Edwards, Oct. 25, 2012