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Is Child Support Program More Harmful Than Helpful?


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!