Pro: Parents who fail to pay child support should go to jail
July 1, 2012 at 2:01 a.m.
Updated July 2, 2012 at 2:02 a.m.
Con: To read why parents who skip child support payments should NOT go to jail, click here.
These days, Victoria resident Kay Tate can accept that her two stints in jail for non-payment of child support were justified.
Tate, who had her two sons at an early age, said she was young and irresponsible when it came to taking financial responsibility for her sons by paying their father child support.
"I was thinking I was above the law. I'm a woman. They aren't going to put me in jail for child support," said Tate, who said she would not even open a checking account for fear the courts would take her money. "Now, I'm 40 years old, and I still have to pay child support on a child who is over 18 because I was selfish in my 20s."
Tate is one of thousands of parents who have been jailed each year for non-payment of court-ordered child support.
She is also a supporter of the drastic debt collection measure.
"If I'm going to have a problem with it, I shouldn't have kids," said Tate. My ex-husband "used his money to take care of them when they were small so why should I be mad about having to pay some of it back?"
Although both of her boys are now over the age of 18, she still owes about $15,000 in back support and penalties for her 21-year-old son.
Jeffrey Duckworth, Tate's ex-husband, said his ex-wife's failure to pay child support often caused strife between them.
"There were times I did need it," said Duckworth, of Port Lavaca and Army veteran who raised his boys as a single dad with the help of his parents. Tate "didn't feel like she had to pay, like it wasn't her responsibility."
Over the years, Duckworth said he took on several jobs in an effort to afford his active boys' expenses.
Despite being the parent owed child support, Duckworth said, he often did not feel like he had the support of the legal system because he was a man.
"It's discriminatory," said Duckworth. "If she didn't pay her taxes, they wouldn't give a damn that she was a mother. She'd go to jail. People are put in jail every day who are mothers. It doesn't make a difference."
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said his office is making a concerted effort to assist parents with owed child support.
"Collecting child support is about more than providing young Texans the food, clothing and support they need today. It's about laying the foundation for them to become successful adults," Abbott wrote in a January newsletter. "Research shows that children who receive support from their parents have fewer behavioral problems, make better grades and stay in school longer than children whose parents are uninvolved in their lives and fail to support them."
Brandi Mankoski found it necessary to put her ex-boyfriend in jail for non-payment.
"If he is in jail, he can't even attempt to pay, but if he isn't going to do anything anyway, he might as well go," said Mankoski, 36, of Telferner. "They've been ordered by the court to pay child support to raise their children."
Kristi Stithem said it was her son's father's absentee behavior that led her to have her ex arrested twice in the past.
"If he had a part in my son's life and got him when he was supposed to, then I would be a lot more easy on the money and I wouldn't put him in jail, but since he has refused to establish a relationship I don't feel bad about sending him to jail," said Stithem.
Despite the potentially negative effect that playing a role in incarcerating a parent can have on their children, parents agree that it is a risk they have to take.
Destinie Regan advocated for her ex-husband to go to jail if he did not get a job and begin making payments. She said she wanted to send the right message to their children.
"I thought putting him in jail would straighten him out," she said. "I wanted them to know that Dad still needed to take responsibility."