Failure to pay child support has a variety of consequences, one of which can be serving jail time. This type of punishment, however, raises the question of fairness. Michigan residents who are paying or receiving child support might be affected if the payor falls behind with payments and eventually ends up having to serve jail time.
Though originally designed as a way to motivate parents who can pay child support but are unwilling, serving jail time for falling behind on or failing to make payments might actually work against the intended goal, particularly when poorer, working parents are involved. Additionally, sending parents off to jail and then giving them a limited amount of time to pay back support once released, only to have them end up in jail again for this failure, begins a debt and punishment cycle that might become inescapable.
The cycle typically begins when judges award child support amounts that are too high for parents to maintain. If the the receiving spouse is on welfare, in some states, the payor might also have to reimburse those payments from their limited income. The financial burden might become too high, causing them to not only fall behind on child support payments, but also on their regular bills, such as rent and utilities, until they end up in jail. While there is no national count of how many parents end up jailed for this, the numbers run in the thousands yearly for each state.
Michigan residents who are involved in child support cases might benefit from the guidance of lawyer who can help them negotiate fair amounts of child support, possibly through a child support modification, that parents can afford to pay. Beginning with a manageable amount might be the key to preventing parents from being jailed for falling behind on their payments and, in the long run, hurting the children the system is designed to protect.
Source: Madame Noire, "Should men go to jail when they fail to pay child support?," Lauren R.D. Fox, April 20, 2015