Parents Sue Over Child Support Jail Time

22nd March, 2011
Georgia Public Broadcasting
Edgar Treiguts

A civil rights group has filed a class action lawsuit that aims to secure lawyers for indigent parents who have been jailed or are in danger of being jailed for failing to pay child support.

ATLANTA-Lawyers for six parents have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state. The plaintiffs are in jail and can’t pay child support. The suit claims they should never have been jailed in the first place.

Sarah Geraghty is a senior attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed the suit. She says state law bans authorities from jailing a parent who can’t pay child support.

“Children are not served when parents who are searching for work to support their families are repeatedly carted-off to jail. Dividing families while preventing parents from finding jobs is fundamentally unfair and ineffective social policy.”

Geraghty cites nearly two dozen cases nationwide that have upheld the right for indigent parents to have appointed counsel.

The SCHR says on any given day, more than 500 parents sit in Georgia jails solely for inability to pay child support -- the vast majority of which are unrepresented.