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Family court judges could lose the opportunity to sentence an uninhibited parent to jail for lack of maintenance.

At the state convention sponsored by Rep. Harvey Epstein, D-New York City, Legislature (A.11038) was introduced to amend the state family court law and eliminate the ability of the court to prosecute someone for violating a support order send to jail.

“If a parent without custody is sentenced to prison for failure to pay benefits, they can lose a job or not look for a job if they are unemployed.” Epstein wrote in his legislative justification. “While it is important for both parents to support their child emotionally and financially, the imprisonment of one parent has negative consequences for both parent and child. The parent renounces the child’s school and social events and the child misses the attachment relationship with his imprisoned parent. The relationship is forever changed, sometimes permanently damaged. People get sick or lose their jobs and are thrown in jail for failing to meet their maintenance obligations. Then the debts add up while incarcerated and they are put back in jail so it can become a never ending cycle. “

All 50 states have passed laws criminalizing failure to pay child support, although some have chosen to treat failure as a civil matter – failure to comply with a court order. Either can lead to incarceration, but the latter approach leaves the non-caring parent with no criminal record.

Epstein said the state should realign its efforts from sending parents to jail to employment programs. In 2005, Texas introduced a program that redirected parents from jail to employment training programs that raised $ 9 for every dollar spent, according to the Texas Center for Public Policy Priorities.

New York state raised $ 1,718,403,812 in child support payments in 2018, according to the Federal Office for Child Support Enforcement, with approximately $ 7.2 billion in child support unpaid. The state oversaw 794,956 child benefit cases in 2018.

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