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Judge slaps unconventional sentence on child-support violator

A county chancery judge came up with a punishment that some supporters think will help discourage poor parenting, but others believe it won't really help needy children. After a man neglected to make his child support payments, the judge sentenced him to wear a sign that confesses to his crimes. For three days each week, the man must publicly display his failure to pay, and the penalty will last until he catches up on over two years worth of missed payments totaling more than $13,000.

News of this unusual punishment led many members of the public to comment via social media. Some believed that it did little more than embarrass the delinquent dad and his children. They also pointed out that the penalty didn't resolve the issue of the previously unpaid support money. Supporters lauded the decision because they thought it would serve as a warning to other parents who might otherwise fall behind.

The county where this incident occurred collected around $2 million for child support payments in 2012. Over 12 percent of those payments were overdue on a monthly basis. Although the judge's choice of sentence was irregular, the fact that events played out this way indicates that some officials may be willing to go to extremes to correct current child support trends.

In many states, like Georgia, child support payment amounts follow standardized guidelines, but these aren't set in stone. Child support takes many different factors into account, and adjustments to the final amount may make payment difficult. As a result, many parents consult with attorneys who could help them anticipate the costs of child support and avoid draconian penalties like the one in this case.

Source: Clarion Ledger, "Child support sign: Punishment applauded, questioned," Dustin Barnes, March 19, 2013

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