On Child Support, and Those Arrested For It.
I can't state this enough--pay your child support. It's a bit of a sticking point with me, and I don't do as many support cases as I used to because I am continually amazed at the sheer number of people who don't want to pay on obligations they owe. This is not something that is up for debate absent some very specific criteria in Tennessee. You pay your child support and that's it.
Don't think of the child support "obligation" as money you're paying the other parent or have to pay the other parent. That money belongs to your children, and is for the upkeep and welfare of your children. Failure to pay that money will carry with it some serious consequences.
First, if you child support payments are in arrears, the State may garnish your wages or subtract money from your tax refund in order to fulfill the arrearage. If you continually fail to pay your child support, then you will find yourself without a driver license, as the state suspends the driver license of those who fail to keep current their obligations. Finally, if you fall far enough behind, you will meet the child support referees or magistrates of you area. They are not interested in hearing about your custody issues, they do not care about how your baby mama or baby daddy is a terrible person who spends the money on drugs. They are there to see you pay your obligation and nothing else.
Failure to pay child support will garner you a court date in front of a judicial official, and you will be allowed to plead your case. Should you fail to satisfy the Court with your explanation, you will probably end up with a contempt finding for failure to obey a court order regarding child support. Usually, I've seen these rulings have "Sentencing Reserved," which means for those of you who are primarily concerned about such things: no, you will not go to jail that day unless you anger the judge. Usually the case will be set out for a certain time and then you will return for a review to see if compliance has been established.
If you fail to comply with the Court's directives, and have not caught up substantially on your arrearages by the time of your next court date, the Court will most likely issue what is referred to as an "auto-jail" on your case. This does not mean that you will go to jail even that day. What it does mean is that about six months down the road the Magistrate or Referee will review your file, and if you fail to meet the jurist's guidelines for "substantial compliance," a warrant will be issued for your arrest and you will be jailed the next time you're stopped for a traffic infraction.
Just in case you're wondering if you can actually be arrested and jailed for failure to pay child support, just look at the case of rapper DMX, who was recently jailed for failure to pay child support. He owed around $400,000 at the time of his arrest. DMX isn't the only celebrity to run afoul of the law, though, for this egregious offense. Here's a list of a few others:
"Love & Hip Hop's" "Rich Dollaz
DJ Stevie J
Shad Moss (aka "Bow Wow")
Darius Mcrary from Full House
The list goes on and on, and I could too, but I shall not for the sake of word economy. Support your children if you have them. It's non-negotiable and will keep you out of jail.