The child support enforcement system has many tools at its disposal to motivate parents to pay child support. In Connecticut, these tools include wage garnishments, tax refund intercepts and reports to credit bureaus. One option receiving more attention is the ability of a judge to put a parent in jail for failure to pay child support.

Supporters of jail as an incentive to pay child support generally believe that people should not have children that they cannot afford. The threat of jail is seen as motivation for people who can afford to pay child support but choose not to do so. In some states, significant numbers of inmates are in jail due to failure to pay child support.

However, opponents of incarceration argue that putting a parent in jail for failure to pay child support only makes the problem worse. A parent is not getting a paycheck while he or she is in prison. Even while employed, parents are often unable to pay large delinquent child support payments from their earnings. These opponents of incarceration argue that the cycle often begins with an initial court order setting a child support amount that the non-custodial parent cannot afford. For some, this starts a never-ending cycle of prison leading to unemployment leading to even higher debt leading to re-imprisonment.

Many people make a distinction between parents who are unwilling to pay child support and those who are unable to pay child support. An individual who is unable to make child support payments, either because the amount is so high or because the individual’s financial situation has changed, may want to consult with an attorney. The attorney may be able to assist the individual in getting a downward modification of the child support order in order to avoid other enforcement action, including imprisonment.