‘Deadbeat’ parents caught in a debtor’s prison


Bill Rankin
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
January 24, 2011

On any given day, hundreds of Georgians are in jail for failing to pay child support.

Family law attorneys say many of these “deadbeats” are right where they belong. They have been found in willful contempt of court for repeatedly refusing to pay their child support, failing to try to find work or hiding their income and assets.

But many parents are being jailed even though they have no ability to pay, creating modern-day debtor’s prisons, according to motions being filed in Georgia courts. The state should provide lawyers to indigent parents for their civil-contempt hearings to ensure due process, the filings say.

Leah Ward Sears, former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, spells out the complexity of the issue.

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