The State of Arkansas rigorously enforces child support obligations. If a payor gets behind on payments, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) will often garnish the payor’s wages. This ensures that the payor meets his or her monthly obligation, and pays down any debt that has accumulated. In some situations, however, garnishment is not possible. A payee often has little recourse but to file a lawsuit to hold the payor in contempt of court. In these lawsuits, jail time is indeed a possibility.
The Arkansas Supreme Court recently clarified the law on imprisonment for failure to pay child support. We do not have debtor’s prison in Arkansas, but a court can sentence you to jail for contempt. That is, a court cannot sentence you to jail for being unable to pay. A court can sentence you to jail for refusing to pay. Therefore the law requires courts to first assess a payor’s ability to pay. If the court determines that the payor has the ability to pay child support, but refuses to, then the court can impose a sentence of jail time.
If you are behind on child support for any reason, your should contact the OCSE and make sure they understand your reasons. The competent professionals there will work with you and help you meet your obligations. If you have been sued for unpaid child support, however, you should immediately contact an Arkansas family lawyer. Family lawyers can help you prove that you were unable to pay child support at the time, or help you limit the damage if you were. Watson & Watson, Attorneys at Law, has many years of experience in family and domestic law in the state of Arkansas, and will fight to help you get back on track.