Obviously when one spouse or parent threatens to get the other spouse or parent sent to jail, things have gotten pretty ugly. The family court judges do not get any special thrill sending a family court litigant to jail. In fact, the family court system is set up to avoid jail time in most cases.
It is important to distinguish the notion of jail in family court from the typical notion of jail (or prison) in criminal court. In the case of a crime, one is sent to prison as punishment for a PAST transgression. In family court, one is sent to jail as a MEANS of compelling FUTURE compliance and cooperation.
For example, if a parent fails to pay child support, they can be held in contempt of court, but sent to jail only if the court finds that the parent has the ABILITY to pay child support and is refusing to do so. The family court is required to set “purge conditions” which are the steps that a party can take to get out of jail, or avoiding going to jail in the first place.
So, in the above example of a child support obligor, assume that the obligor has a monthly obligation of $400 per month, and $8,000 is past due. The family court judge cannot send the obligor to jail for failure to instantly pay the $8,000 unless the court has reason (on the record) to believe that the obligor is ABLE to pay $8,000 instantly. If the court finds that the obligor is unable to pay $8,000 right away, but IS able to pay $800 right away, and $800 per month thereafter ($400 for current support and $400 to go towards the past due amount), then the “purge condition” may be the $800 monthly payment.
The family court may hold the obligor in contempt, sentence the obligor to 30 days of jail, but stay the imposition of the sentence while the obligor complies with the ordered $800 monthly payments. If the obligor fails to pay $800 per month during the period of time that the past due support is outstanding, the obligor can be hauled into court and sent to jail. In this instance, the obligor’s failure to pay $800 per month is willful on the part of the obligor, and not beyond the obligor’s control.
When the obligor is given the jail sentence, it is not so much for the past transgression of failing to pay child support as much as the present or future transgression of failing to do the obligor is found to be capable of doing to become current on the obligation.
I have a Final Divorce Decree which stipulates that spousal maintenance will be held in “reserve” until such time as spouse (husband) gains employment and at such time is to report to wife’s attorney his wages/earnings, place of employment and ant Insurances or benefit packages that he mat have….he failed to report.
Now he has taken on a position with the Federal Government in Miami Fla (job site superintendent in the construction area)…I have a feeling he landed this position as a Veteran.
I knew he was leaving and had not stepped up to his obligation with the CURRENT employer and now he is trying to SLIDE OUT of the state and not tell anyone where he is currently workig.
To make a long story short, he was served papers before he left the State of MN and has a court date of )ctober 21, 2008 @ 10:00 a.m. What are the ramifications if he does not show up? Can he be FOUND at his jobsite and what will happen from that point on? Thank you. Mary
Will the court order jail time for contempt for not paying for only SPOUSAL support if payer is laid off and unemployed and cannot pay the modified lower court ordered spousal support? ie children all grown and there is no longer any child support involved.
My ex is $8300 in arrears. He was given a purge condition of $200/month. It says in the order that the $200 purge condition does not reduce underlying support obligations. Does this mean that he ONLY has to pay the $200, and nothing towards his regular $437/month?
I would caution you to consult with counsel regarding the case, for purposes of obtaining legal advice. But based on what you described, it appears to me that your ex continues to owe the $437 per month, and will accumulate arrears on any failure to pay that sum. But the $200 per month will allow him to avoid being in contempt, and possibly ending up in jail. That is, paying less than $200 per month puts him both in arrears and in contempt; whereas, paying $200 or more per month keeps him out of contempt, but he is still accumulating arrears unless he pays the full $437.