• Sun, Jan 12 - 10:00 am ET

Texas Father Faces Jail Time For OVERPAYING Child Support Payments, Because Sometimes The Courts Are Stupid

In a story that would be comical if it weren’t so frustrating and ridiculous. a Texas father, Clifford Hall, is facing jail time over a child support issue. But it’s not what you’re thinking – Hall is in trouble for paying too much child support for his 11-year-old son. Fox Houston reported that, unbeknownst to Hall, his child support amount and visitation schedule was modified. According to his lawyer, Tyesha Elam:

“I discovered for some reason his employer was withholding a large amount some weeks a small amount some weeks a zero amount some weeks.”

Ironically, Hall says that he feared jail time, so he quickly paid almost $3000 in back support payments. This is where the story gets confusing. According to Elam, when she and her client were in court this past November, Hall owed nothing:

“Opposing counsel testified twice that he’s all paid up,” says Elam.

Due to the confusion, Halls apparent over-payment and the snafu with visitation, Hall was sentenced to six months in jail due to contempt, which seems excessive and ridiculous to me. How can Hall pay support to his ex and their child from jail? This is a man obviously dedicated to doing the right thing. According to community activist Quanell X:

“This entire situation is shocking to me. I’ve never seen one like this. The court failed the child. The court failed Mr. Hall the system broke down.”

Make no mistake, Hall is being jailed for OVER payment and OVER visitation, even though he wasn’t made aware of the changes. According to Elam:

“…he couldn’t have gotten a worse result. He could have gone in there with a monkey and gotten a better result. What did I do that my client has over paid over visited and is now paying 3 thousand dollars in attorney fees and is going to jail for six months.”

Thankfully, Hall can still appeal, which is something he and his lawyer are working on. I hope they can work this situation out so he can be there for his child, and not be stuck in jail for half a year.

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  • Kay_Sue

    He’s going to jail for contempt, and it sounds like it’s more about them wanting to make him pay the $3,000 in his child’s mother’s attorney fees. It seems like his employer screwed up, did not garnish enough child support, and he was served, which notified him of the problem, which he also rectified. I am wondering if he kicked up a fuss–the judge says he walked out of the courtroom after being found in contempt–and that is more the issue than the child support itself. Over paying isn’t a crime.

    I also find it hard to believe that the order was changed without his knowledge. My husband’s order has been changed before, and it had to be served, physically, to him. Maybe that’s just the jurisdiction his daughters’ mother lives in or maybe it is because it was an interstate situation. But there’s no way it can be changed without our knowledge. In which case, if he was notified, he either ignored the summons entirely and never answered it, or he knew the changes, ignored them, and continued to do visitation on the schedule he preferred, which could be part of the contempt charge.

    I agree that even if it’s not about overpayment, it’s an insane punishment. If you have someone in your courtroom for a support issue, it should be blatantly obvious that throwing them in jail for six months, for whatever reason, is counterproductive for the child and the noncustodial parent. The child goes without their parent, and the NCP still has to try to dig out of that hole when they get out of jail–as well as living with that charge on their record, which in this case seems especially heinous.

    • chickadee

      Yes, the issue is absolutely contempt, the refusal to pay court costs, and probably the fact that he left the courtroom before being dismissed.

      Child support and visitation arrangements in Texas are changed only through the courts, and then all parties are officially notified. It was his job to inform his employer of the payment change, so that is his responsibility. If the courts failed to notify him that arrangements had changed, the an investigation should be made. But this stuff isn’t handled via phone call or word of mouth–it’s a legal and official action. And violating the written visitation agreement can be considered interference and is prosecutable.

    • Kay_Sue

      That’s what our experience was too. The official notice AFTER the hearing came through the mail, but it was just a write-up of the changes to the order so we could file it. We were already aware because my husband attended the hearing, and made the necessary changes.

      We received several notices leading up to it, and even had time to arrange representation, not to mention for my husband to get off work.

      There was quite really no way we could have said, “Oh, we never saw it” or “We had no idea”. We were notified before the hearing, and like I said, again after with a write up.

    • brebay

      Yes, he would have had to have notice of the hearing on a complaint to modify before it can be scheduled. This makes no sense. He could have gotten served and disregarded it, but there’s no way it could have been changed without him being notified, I think we have only part of the story here.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      It wouldn’t surprise me, since the author of the article Frances is quoting seems to not understand how to use punctuation. I went back and looked at it and it’s full of errors. The textbook I use to teach my college writing students lists tons of grammatical errors as a warning that a source is not reliable.

    • chickadee

      Well, it’s Fox News….that’s pretty much the American equivalent of the Daily Fail.

    • Kay_Sue

      That was my feeling too. I don’t want to generalize our experience, because it is personal anecdote, and the process could vary, I guess, but we could never have said, “Oh, we had no idea it was changed.” There were several notices over a couple of months leading up to the hearing. That part is what first made me go, “This seems fishy.”

  • Haradanohime

    That is absolutely ridiculous. All the deadbeat dads out there and they jail the one actually trying to take care of his child? WTF is wrong with people?

  • chickadee

    Snopes has a link to the court documents, and according to the filing documents, Hall seemed to be aware of the pending alterations…. http://www.hcdistrictclerk.com/edocs/public/CaseDetails.aspx?Get=YwLJbSIjM9AeSTNtBiP2TTR8xLBcy4Vk5oNwjQIt4dawhNF8qqBvGg5WT7em/mqal7X4+z/4EHxonexTqt5Mw0/om9XN8CX3BpccTUzCP/E=

    • Paul White

      still not sure how overpaying results in jail time though. Unless you can claim CS support on your taxes and he was using it as a way to claim too much?

    • chickadee

      It doesn’t, and when the story is separated from the tabloid headlines, you see that he didn’t do anything but pay the sum for which he was in arrears. The jail time is for being in contempt of court orders, which may or may not include being behind on child support and violating the terms of the visitation agreement.

  • CrazyLogic

    How is giving a little extra for his kid contempt of court? I fail to comprehend this.

  • Lindsey Sweet

    What is WRONG with that judge? And WHY did it even go to court in the first place? This whole story makes no sense!