You have seen the recent news about a local man being arrested and jailed for his refusal to pay Court Ordered Child Support. Now, this is only done after one is initially ordered to pay, doesn’t pay, then is formally requested to pay, given notice, given an opportunity to pay or prove their inability to pay with specificity, and then and only then, jailed as a last resort. In these circumstances, knowing the layers of review, the opportunities afforded by the Court and the fact that everyone had a lawyer (actually multiple lawyers), my sympathy is nil. This is Contempt of Court and ultimately the wrong-doer has the keys to the jail. All you have to do is pay what you owe and you are free to go.
However, if you still don’t pay, your troubles can multiply.
TITLE 97. CRIMES CHAPTER 5. OFFENSES AFFECTING CHILDREN Miss. Code Ann. § 97-5-3 (2016) § 97-5-3. Desertion or nonsupport of child under age eighteen
Any parent who shall desert or wilfully neglect or refuse to provide for the support and maintenance of his or her…children…while said…children are under the age of eighteen (18) years shall be guilty of a felony and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished for a first offense by a fine of not less than One Hundred Dollars ($ 100.00) nor more than Five Hundred Dollars ($ 500.00), or by commitment to the custody of the Department of Corrections not more than five (5) years, or both; and for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($ 1,000.00) nor more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($ 10,000.00), or by commitment to the custody of the Department of Corrections not less than two (2) years nor more than five (5) years, or both, in the discretion of the court.
Prison for not paying child support? Yes. It’s the law.
Matthew Thompson is a Child Custody and Child Support Attorney in Mississippi.
A former Chancery Court Judge in Mississippi is on his way to Prison.
Joe Dale Walker, former Chancellor over Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence, Simpson and Smith counties, plead Guilty in October for his on-the-bench conduct.
Federal charges included that he instructed a federal grand jury witness to destroy documents and then lied to FBI agents about it.
According to the FBI, Walker directed an attorney (the witness) he had appointed for a Conservatorship to solicit bids for the construction of a home for the ward. Of the bids obtained, one was from the Judge’s nephew. The Judge reviewed the bids in his office and instructed his nephew to increase his bid. Walker then transferred the case to the other Judge in the district for the limited purpose of accepting and approving the bid because of his nephew’s involvement. After the contract was awarded to Walker’s nephew, the case was transferred back to Walker by the second Judge.
Walker, knowing that a Grand Jury subpoena was outstanding for information concerning the bidding process, spoke with the witness about instructing his nephew to increase his bid and the original bid and any existing copies.
When interviewed by the FBI, Walker denied talking with the witness about his nephew’s bids and denied telling the witness that the original low bid needed to be “somewhere else.”
Contempt is the willful refusal to follow or abide by a valid Court Order.
Contempt is what the Court finds when you 1) do NOT DO what you have been Ordered to do, or when you 2) do what you have been Ordered NOT to DO.
The most common finding of Contempt is failure to pay child support. A willful failure to pay child support usually leads to a finding of Contempt and if repeated can lead to very bad results. It is the most common contempt ground leading to incarceration. A finding of contempt can result in fines, the payment of the other side’s fees and possibly incarceration.
However, you can be in Contempt of any valid Court Order if you do not follow it. This can include violating a No Contact Order– meaning you are to not have contact or communications with a certain person and if you do you may be held in contempt.
So you can be held in contempt for NOT doing what you should, ie: pay support or for doing what you should NOT, ie: contacting a person you are barred from contacting.
So, what do you do when there is a valid Court Order? Follow it to the letter.
What happens if you don’t? Well, you better bring your toothbrush…
Matthew Thompson is a Child Custody Lawyer in Mississippi and reminds you to NOT do things that can lead to your incarceration.