Houston resident Clifford Hall is serving six months in jail because of child support he had paid in full — and because of a clerical error.
“Mr. Hall has agreed to voluntarily surrender himself to the police to serve a six month sentence as a result of a child support withholding clerical error by his former employer,” Hall’s attorney, Tyesha Elam, said at press conference.
The error prevented money garnished from Hall’s paycheck from being sent to his 12-year-old son’s mother.
Hall – who once won a local father-of-the year award — thought the child support was being paid because his wages were being garnished to cover it, but it wasn’t. When he realized the error, Hall paid the child support and an extra $1,000 but that wasn’t enough for family court Judge Lisa Millard. She sentenced the father to six months in jail for contempt of court.
Law Putting Responsible Parents in Jail
“My issue is with the law that hurts not just Cliff but thousands of paying parents across Texas,” Elam said. “This law doesn’t hurt the deadbeat.”
Elam blamed a new Texas law that gives judges the power to send deadbeat parents to jail even if they catch up on child support payments. Elam noted that the law was only passed last year, two months after the late child support payments.
She claimed that Hall’s former employer, AT&T, even admitted to the error and sent evidence of it to the court. Millard told The Houston Chronicle she had never heard of the error. A court transcript clearly shows that Hall mentioned the error at a November court hearing where Millard was present.
“Mr. Hall likes to make excuses, but he did not follow the court-ordered child support,” Millard told The Chronicle. She said Hall has a history of paying child support late. Hall contends the payments were late because he was unemployed and unable to make them.
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Elam had appealed Millard’s ruling, but an appeals court sided with Millard. Hall said he turned himself in because he wanted to end the ordeal.
“I just don’t see how this is going to help anyone,” Hall said of the sentence.
It looks like responsible parents can go to jail for doing the right thing in Texas.
Should Hall have been sent to jail? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.