recently ran an excellent point/counterpoint series on the topic of whether or not a parent who fails to pay child support should go to jail.

Here is a summary of each the arguments made on both sides of the issue:

Pro – Parents should go to jail

  • Failing to pay child support puts extra financial strain on the other parent and, of course, the child.
  • Jail time sends a message about responsibility to both the offending parent and the child.
  • Certain parents don’t even attempt to find a job to pay off their child support obligation. Others completely ignore the payments because they don’t care.

Con – Parents should NOT go to jail

  • Most parents who fail to pay child support don’t do so because they want to. They simply can’t afford it.
  • Enforcement agencies aggressively pursue child support parents, often suspending the parent’s driver’s licenses, garnishing their wages up to 65%, and initiating criminal proceedings. This makes it even more difficult for parents to pay their child support obligation.
  • Courts should focus on helping parents who can’t pay their support obligation, rather than punishing them for being unable to pay.

Minnesota Child Support Law

So how does this relate to Minnesota child support laws?

Under Minnesota law, if a non-custodial parent obligor is behind in child support payments, the custodial parent obligee has a variety of enforcement tools to compel payment.  Such tools include:

  • Automatic Income Withholding
  • State and Federal Tax Interception
  • Passport Revocation
  • Driver’s License Revocation
  • Recreational License Revocation
  • Jail Time

Generally, Minnesota courts will not impose a jail sentence until all other enforcement tools are exhausted.  To some, a jail sentence seems counterintuitive. How can an obligor work to pay child support if he or she is in jail?

In Minnesota, when a jail sentence is imposed for non-payment of child support, the jail sentence is usually “stayed” meaning the obligor stays out of jail so long as he or she meets set conditions. Such conditions require a diligent effort to find employment, making a smaller child support payment until the obligor can get his or her financial affairs in order, or complying with an employment search program. Obligors will do almost anything to stay out of jail, so jail is usually a good motivator to comply with child support payments.

What do you think? Should parents who fail to pay child support face jail time? Shout out in the comments section!


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