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Can deadbeat parents be put in jail?

There supposedly is no such thing as a debtors' prison. The failure to pay debts generally will not get a person put in jail. However, with every rule there is an exception. When a parent fails to pay child support payments, Ohio law allows the state to charge a non-paying parent with a crime.

Depending on the amount of child support owed, obligors (those ordered to pay child support) could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. While this mode of punishment may be seem harsh, it is often the action of last resort. Before seeking jail time, the state may suspend a person's drivers' license, refuse to grant (or renew) hunting or fishing licenses, shelve a person's professional license (e.g. medicine, law, accounting) and even intercept state and federal tax returns.

For the most serious arrearages, the court also has the power to extradite someone from a different state and bring them back to Ohio to face criminal charges. For those who believe that only men have child support arrears, women can also be charged with a crime.

Nevertheless, not everyone with child support arrears is heading to jail. In fact, prosecutors would rather work out an agreement that where the custodial parent is receiving some form of payment. According to a U.S. Census report, fewer than half of all custodial parents receive the full amount of support ordered.

In order to stay out of trouble, people who are ordered to pay support should seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. This is especially important when income fluctuations prevent an obligor from adhering to a child support order.

Source:, Deadbeat mom sentences for failing to pay child support, April 16, 2013

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