People who deliberately refuse to pay court-ordered child support can go to jail for consecutive six-month sentences for repeat violations, New York’s highest court ruled Tuesday.
State law generally limits Family Court to imposing single six-month sentences.
The six judges in the Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Family Court can revisit jail sentences for willful violations that were previously suspended and order an offender jailed on all of them. Those sentences can run consecutively, extending the time an offender can be locked up.
Federal data show that unpaid child support has risen over the past 30 years from nearly $3 billion to more than $115 billion nationally, Judge Michael Garcia wrote. In signing New York legislation in 1986 aimed at helping with enforcement, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo had called it a major factor in the alarming poverty rate among American children.
People who are financially unable to pay court-ordered child support can apply for relief instead of jail time.