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It is common for parents who have been ordered to pay child support to have those payments taken directly out of his or her paycheck. This is called garnishment. It can be an easy and convenient way for the payor to avoid missing a payment. Failure to pay child support could eventually have consequences like jail time, making it a serious matter, not to mention a serious financial strain for the children and the parent with custody.

One father is headed to jail for six months because his ex-wife and 12-year-old son did not receive thousands of dollars of child support. But the nonpayment was due to his employer’s mistake, not anything he did. Nevertheless, he had no choice but to surrender to authorities on June 24 and prepare to spend time behind bars.

The father’s employer, AT&T, withheld the support money from his paychecks, but failed to deliver it to his ex-wife, apparently due to a clerical error. Once the mistake came to light, the man began paying the support that was owed. He erased the debt, and added an extra $1,000. But a new law in his state makes it so that he must be incarcerated for six months, regardless of the circumstances. Also, the judge says that evidence that AT&T was to blame was never presented to her.

As the man’s jail term begins, his attorneys are appealing his case to federal court. He is expected to fall behind on child support while locked up.

This is an unusual circumstance, but nonpayment of child support can happen for many reasons. The payor may be withholding payments on purpose. Or he or she may no longer be able to afford them, due to a job loss or similar financial reversal.

Source: KHOU-TV, “Houston father to surrender after employer’s mistake with child support,” Shern-min Chow, June 23, 2014