Child support cases aim for payments, not jail time - WSMV Channel 4

Child support cases aim for payments, not jail time

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Some may find this hard to believe, but Davidson County is arresting and jailing an average of one person a day for not paying child support. And the astonishing thing is the court actually would prefer to put no one in jail at all.

Child support court could be called the "court of excuses." These cases are the adult version of "the dog ate my homework," and it would be funny if it weren't so depressing.

It takes a tremendous lack of effort to get to Magistrate Scott Rosenberg's court. Each defendant he sees has missed at least 18 child support payments and each also has had the audacity to not show up for a court hearing.

"What is it that caused you to miss those 18 payments? Did you eat?" Rosenberg asked one father.

"Barely," the father responded. "Maybe a piece of bread or something for a whole week."

But, after facing a threat spending months in jail, the father soon returned with $2,500 in cash and a request to move his child support to minimum wage.

The father also said he would try to pay the required minimum of $8.66 a day in child support from now on.

"But my situation, with no education and 11 children, it's very hard," the father said.

How, then, did this father come up with $2,500 so quickly? The prosecution said it's simple - he is married to a cardiologist. He's a stay-at-home dad who lives in a beautiful Brentwood home.

But Rosenberg cannot legally set child support based on a spouse's income. So it's just another day in child support court.

"It's amazing what I hear over and over again. People who have never understood the concept of responsibility," Rosenberg said. "They are generally 25 to 35 years old, haven't had a job for five years, not worked a day cutting grass. There's just not that sense of responsibility. They are not dependant for food on their table."

Ultimately, the court is most concerned with children getting monetary support. Jail, here, is the absolute last option.

"Arresting them doesn't solve the problem. It may be a form of a punishment, but what we want is to make sure the children are taken care of," Rosenberg said.

Occasionally someone has turned the pattern around, doesn't want to go to jail and starts paying on time. But for the most part, it's excuses - hard times or even extraordinary medical conditions.

However, those with no medical proof of their condition and no child support paid will find themselves sleeping in jail.

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