Some are arguing that a child support collection program is unconstitutional.
Parents who have fallen behind on their monthly
child support payments may be ordered to enroll in the Pay or Appear program. Under
the terms of the program, the parents are required to pay their support
obligations on a weekly basis. If they don't pay in full by 5 p.m.
on Wednesday they must appear before a judge the next day and explain
why they didn't pay. If they don't have a reason or the judge
thinks their reason for not paying isn't good enough, the judge can
send them to jail until they make the payments.
While this may sound like a fair way to ensure child support is collected,
some of the parents enrolled in the program say it is unfair and unconstitutional.
One man, Childs Roberts of Fort Myers, is challenging the program. He said
he's been arrested 13 times for failure to comply with the program,
which requires him to make weekly payments of $132 a week. But that figure
is $12 more than what he earns. Roberts says he loves his son and is trying
his hardest to provide for him, but that it's hard to make payments
he can barely afford. He also said he's been arrested for being $1.90 short.
Attorney Sam Assini, who is representing another man whose been jailed
for failing to make payments, says the program participants are being
denied due process. He says that the participants aren't given sufficient
notice of the court hearing, and are being jailed for a civil matter without
issuance of a proper order of findings of fact. He also says the custodial
parent does not have to appear at the hearing, so the participant can't
even face his or her accuser.
Assini also points out that the majority of participants who have been
jailed for failing to pay are not deadbeat parents, but rather have fallen
on hard times due to the poor economy and simply cannot afford to make
their child support obligations.
In response, Chief Judge Keith Cary said the court has thoroughly reviewed
the program and found it to be constitutionally sound. And program coordinator
Rita Heckler said the program is incredibly effective in collecting child
support. She said that since 2002, the program has collected nearly $7
million. In 2009 the program collected $1.3 out of the $1.4 million owed,
which equates to a 91.5% success rate.
If you need help with a child support issue, you can turn to Hutchinson
Law for help. To arrange a consultation with an experienced
Jacksonville child support lawyer at our firm, please
contact the office!