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Parents face jail if they can't pay child support

Bergen County in New Jersey has a program that is intended to help parents who are behind on their child support payments, but some individuals who are in it claim it simply keeps putting them back in jail and hinders their ability to find a job. Many times those who are delinquent claim that their income doesn't even come close to the amount they need, which is sometimes in the six figure range.

One wing of the Bergen County Jail is dedicated to the men who are behind in their child support. They stay there nights and weekends, but are freed weekdays to work or seek a job. Women are released with ankle bracelets because there isn't a similar part of the jail to house them. The men are expected, at some point, to pay for what it costs the taxpayers to house them, which adds to their debt load. Most of them claim they are trying to pay but a poor economy has left them with few options for jobs that would allow them to catch up.

County officials defend the program, saying they offer flexibility to anyone who is willing to make an effort. However, many of the individuals in the system are dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, so it is difficult for them to find steady, well-paying employment. Bergen County claims that jail is for the hardcore offenders who simply refuse to cooperate.

Issues with paying or collecting child support are common. There are a growing number of programs that attempt to at least encourage those who are behind in their payments, but some parents still try to avoid their obligations. A parent who has child custody and who is owed support may wish to consult with a family law attorney to determine the best methods of collecting the delinquent amounts.

Source:, "Inside the world of 'deadbeat dads': In and out of jail, unable or unwilling to pay", Colleen Diskin, July 28, 2014

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