Texas Law Sends Dad to Jail After Child Support Withholding Error
Harris County, TX – On Tuesday, June 24, 2014, Texas father Clifford Hall voluntarily arrived at the Harris County Civil Courthouse and was taken into custody to begin a six-month jail sentence. Hall’s complex child support case received international attention last year when he received the harshest punishment under the law. Hall was sentenced to six months in jail even though he became current on child support arrearages made late at the fault of his then employer AT&T.
“My client Clifford Hall is one of the first casualties of the repeal of Texas Family Code Section 157.162(d) that formerly protected parents who were current in the payment of child support,” said Eraka Watson, Hall’s new legal counsel with The Childs Law Firm. “In June of 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature repealed the law (HB 847) making a jail sentence a judgment option for being in contempt of the court for failure to pay child support. There are no exceptions, there is no notice served to the defendant indicating a period of time to cure the default. The law is not defensible,” said attorney Watson.
“Repeal of the Texas Family Code was initially meant to deter dead-beat dads from being chronic offenders of late child support and making last minute payments before their court date,” continued attorney Watson. “However, in Mr. Hall’s case, he was unaware that the child support payments being withheld from his check were not getting to the court due to the employer’s clerical error.
Unfortunately, even after Mr. Hall paid the arrearages and court fees, and had a positive balance, he was sentenced to six months in jail for child support underpayment and over-visitation. Prior to the repeal, my client could not have been incarcerated. Because his case was reset six times until after the repeal, Mr. Hall was held in contempt and sentenced to jail.”
Hall’s attorneys have exhausted all appeal recourses. Attorney Eraka Watson will file a motion for reconsideration introducing the AT&T sworn affidavit for the existing court’s consideration. The affidavit was signed and delivered to Hall’s previous attorney on January 21, 2014, and was not available nor considered during Hall’s November 18, 2013 hearing.
The motion for reconsideration, if successful, could mean Hall’s freedom. If the motion is not successful, Hall’s lawyer will take the next course of legal action to free Hall.
Attorney Watson will also seek full custody for Mr. Hall of 12-year-old Dreydon Hall, his son.