When, not if. When is a far more compelling word than if. If is conditional; it may or may not happen. When is not conditional: it announces something as inevitable. When you go to jail for failure to pay child support in Virginia, you invite a whole lotta hurt. If you can bear to read about it, when you get to the end of this, we have a solution for you.

Child Support in Virginia

Failure to pay child support in Virginia was once treated lightly by almost everyone. Almost everyone: it cut deeply into the other parent and the children.

Failure to pay what you owe to your children is no longer treated as a joke, and the state no longer dismisses delinquent parents as “deadbeat Dads.”

Child support is meant to sustain, feed, house, clothe and comfort your children when you are not present to perform a plentitude of parental duties. It is sent from the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent on a regular schedule.

Failure to pay child support triggers a response from Virginia’s Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE).

Jail for Child Support in Virginia

You know all those exciting nighttime dramas on television, like “Orange is the New Black,” “Oz,” and “Wentworth?” Believe it or not, real Virginia jails are not quite like you see on TV.

For starters, the corrections officers and inmates have no script writers, so the dialogue doesn’t sparkle. For another, everybody inside is less interested in good lighting and more interested in toughing out and getting out. It is also a bit quieter than the sound guys in Hollywood want you to believe. Quieter by design and by orders.

The food is digestible, the common areas spare and clean, and the day highly regimented. You can take a lovely online jail tour courtesy of the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Department.

Very few inmates spend long hours scraping sporks down to make shivs. Mostly they wait. And wait. And stare at walls, floors, flickering ceiling lights. Inmates also have access to:

  • Education
  • Drug treatment services
  • Health services
  • Limited recreation
  • Their attorneys
  • Religious services
  • Life skills training

Sadly, many Virginia men in jail have mental health issues, drug or alcohol abuse problems, or behavioral problems that make them less-than-ideal roommates.

We want to be fair. The deputies and corrections officers work hard in a largely thankless job to make jail at least livable. But it’s still jail.

You Owe Child Support No Matter What

Some noncustodial parents actually hope to be jailed for failure to pay child support so they do not have to pay child support. They think they are in the pokey and completely broke-y, but Virginia does not care: the support and interest pile up.

Wait … you still owe? Oh, you owe! As the DCSE politely states in response to FAQ #73 (with our emphasis added):

  1. What happens to the support if the noncustodial parent is in jail?

Unless the noncustodial parent is participating in a work-release program or has other attachable assets, DCSE has no way to collect support from an incarcerated noncustodial parent. The support continues to be owed and interest may accrue on the unpaid support. It may be possible to establish paternity while an alleged father is incarcerated.

Virginia has removed a lot of the excuses of so-called “deadbeat Dads” (though 10 percent of incarcerated noncustodial parents are women). Before you are put in the pokey, the state will try wage garnishment, suspending your driver’s license, applying liens, freezing bank accounts, and intercepting tax refunds.

Instead of throwing you in jail immediately, DCSE may even help you find work to get the support payments flowing again.

Problem Solved

Pay your child support. Pay according to the schedule established by either the property settlement agreement or court order.

Even if you face temporary cash flow problems, inform the custodial parent of the shortfall, and pay what you can. Good-faith efforts to meet your financial obligations to your own children can help.

If you are facing jail due to child support problems, you need a good family law attorney. The Commonwealth is not on your side. The custodial parent is not on your side. You need a family law attorney who understands the process, who can offer solutions and strategies, and who has compassion for your kids and you.

A child support attorney may be able to find an alternative to jail time. Behind bars, your child support obligation continues to increase with no way for you to pay, so your attorney may be able to argue that incarceration delays cash to your kids.

Avoid drama. Contact The Firm For Men when you find yourself facing jail time for child support issue at (757) 383-9184. We provide excellent counsel on all aspects of family law, including child support, arrearages, and incarceration.