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New York dad heads to jail for refusing to pay support -- again

An upstate New York man who refused to comply with court orders will spend up to three years in state prison. The Glens Falls-area father owes $63,000 in past-due child support, a bill that will not disappear no matter how long the 37-year-old remains imprisoned.

Jail time for parents with delinquent child support payments is uncommon. Family courts hope to convince noncustodial parents to pay what they owe through wage garnishment or some other means. Imprisonment takes away a parent's employment opportunities and can place an individual's financial situation in jeopardy.

Prison is a last resort reserved for the worst offenders.

The Washington County man had been ordered twice to come current with his enormous debt, once on misdemeanor non-support charges in 2008 and again on felony charges in 2010. Prosecutors say the noncustodial father pleaded guilty but ignored his probation officer and never made the court-ordered, $135 a month payments.

About two dozen parents have been criminally prosecuted for delinquent child support in the last five years in Washington County. Overdue payments must be substantial before a parent is accused of a crime.

The court demands that the convicted parent fulfill his parental obligations. If the noncustodial parent earns money in prison, his wages will be garnished. The remaining debt will await the parent after parole. The back payment must be satisfied as a condition of the prisoner's sentence.

Family court judges take a dim view of parents who neglect the support of their children. A different opinion exists for noncustodial parents with the inability to pay.

Child support modifications allow parents in troubled financial circumstances to downsize payments. A parent's desire and effort to pay support, even at a reduced amount, is significant in court. At the same time, improved personal finances can be a reason for a judge to increase support payments.

Judges in New York base child support decisions on the needs of children and both parents' ability to support those needs.

Source: poststar.com, "Child support scofflaw from Argyle headed to prison," Don Lehman, Oct. 29, 2012

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