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Deadbeat Dads Get Free Lawyers? Supreme Court to Decide


The Supreme Court will soon decide whether indigent people are entitled to legal representation during child support proceedings.  Not only is this a bad idea, but it is also a very ineffective solution.

Although the Supreme Court has dealt with such situations before, the latest comes from the Turner v Rogers case.  South Carolina resident Michael D. Turner was held in civil contempt and sent to jail for not paying his child support payments.  Mr. Turner claims that he was too poor to pay his child support payments, and had he been provided adequate representation, he would not have been sent to jail.

The Sixth Amendment recognizes that as part of one’s due process protections, lawyers should be appointed to those who cannot afford legal representation.  Due process rights are an individual’s constitutional right to life, liberty, and property.  The Supreme Court recognizes this, but also notes that the Sixth Amendment applies to criminal proceedings, not civil.  That is why indigent individuals are appointed lawyers in criminal proceedings, but not to civil matters like employment disputes or personal injury claims.

The question now is whether the Court is willing to extend the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of legal representation to a civil proceeding (child support $ dispute) that has criminal implications (the deadbeat dad goes to jail for failing to pay child support).

On the one hand, there is the argument that not providing counsel to those who are in need is a violation of an individual’s due process rights.  Yes, the U.S. Constitution does grant each individual the right to life, liberty, and property.  However, a rule allowing for representation to be provided in child support proceedings may not be the best solution to guarantee that a person’s due process rights are maintained.

The strongest opposing argument for such a rule has been the fear of broad application.  Today it may only apply to child support proceedings, tomorrow it may be applied to alimony hearings, custody matters, immigration issues etc.  Where can a limit be set, and based off of what?   That seems to be the Supreme Court’s greatest concern.

From a personal perspective, I feel for people like Mr. Tyler.  However, guaranteeing individuals like Mr. Tyler an attorney is a misuse of judicial resources.  Child support calculations are based on the financial information provided by both parents.  If the parents are honest about their finances, courts do not place an undue burden on them by requiring them to pay a ridiculous amount. Therefore, I wonder how honest Mr. Tyler was to the court when he first filled out his financial information.

What most people do not understand is that it costs a lot of money to conduct court proceedings.  Having attorneys appointed to people facing criminal charges makes sense because criminal proceedings have severe punishments.  However, for civil matters such as child support proceedings, honest communication can help avoid atrocious repercussions.  Having attorneys appointed for such proceedings is costly.

Furthermore, these attorneys can be better used for more pertinent matters.  Although attorneys aim to work efficiently and get matters taken care of as soon as possible, things do not always work out that way.  Domestic relations matters, such as child support proceedings, can be drawn out with the involvement of attorneys.  The unfortunate result is the child suffers as time passes because he or she is not getting the necessary financial support.

Essentially, having attorneys appointed for those who cannot afford one for domestic relations proceedings is a waste of judicial resources and likely to be counterproductive.  Attorneys may not always bring the most efficient result in a timely manner.  Those attorneys may be used for more server proceedings.

The key in domestic relation proceedings is honest communications and both parties having a meeting of the minds.  Court appointed attorneys are less likely to reach such a goal; rather, forcing the parties to effectively communicate will bring a more favorable result.  With the way our economy is going, we cannot afford to waste valuable resources.

Ken LaMance


  • Jeff

    How many times did the writer use the word honest when talking about Divorce, Custody, and civil cases. I know from personal experience that divorce attorneys that represent women are the biggest lying crocks. They suck men dry, and then the man has to pay her legal fees. When my ex is in court, she turns into an almost delusional liar.

  • tim

    So if you don’t pay, you get sent to jail. How is this not a criminal proceeding?

    You missed out on a lot of contextual facts here. Why is the state filing suit against Turner?

    “The question now is whether the Court is willing to extend the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of legal representation to a civil proceeding (child support $ dispute) that has criminal implications”

    No, it isn’t. As the NYT article states, it’s whether or not legal representation should be provided when the state charges someone with civil contempt, as a punishment for not complying with a court order. In this case, I can assume the court order is to pay child support that is owed.

    Now civil contempt, with the possible punishment of incarceration, certainly sounds like a criminal offense. Why shouldn’t there be a trial with a lawyer provided?

    In the end, how does this punishment solve the problem? Turner is not going to earn much money in prison, and he’s going to cost the state money to feed, clothe and house him. His child support debt will continue to grow and he’ll remain either unwilling or unable to pay it.

  • Aaron Bedgood

    I believe that they should hold off on jail till they have started to take the items that the parent owns and sells it off myself. Save the tax payers money and put it back on the Deadbeat.

  • effie

    I would not call a person that is not able to pay child support a deadbeat dad.Millions of people in america are unemployed and cannot find jobs.Their child support payments are increasing and with all the interest being added to these pamements that the children never receive.Money is witheld from income tax returns for child support payments yet if there is any reason you miss a payment they stop your driving priviledges so you cannot get to work.Collection agencies now collect child support payments and they have to make a profit.It has become a business.

  • Unbelievable

    The custodial parent is represented during a hearing so why shouldn’t the non-custodial parent benefit from the same thing. Common folks generally don’t know the law and all its jargon. If some sort of representation was provided then the individual could be represented correctly.

  • David Cox

    As the Plaintiff in a divorce proceeding. Being assumed guilty by using smoke screen tactic ” where there is smoke there usually fire ” as the Plaintiff continues to the court on fire the court refused to smell smoke. Women begged for equal rights for many years. Crinal justice studies uncove t he amount of crimes with criminal intent, premeditation of a hianus nature,are commited by women. Women and the juvenile justice system: Cited research uncovers women are likley to murder their children compared to men. The juvenile justice system is part of the criminal justice system. Established in 1890 the juvenile court system promulgated precedence for the classification of juveniles, minor, children as well as juvenile delinquents. It further established that minor children fallen victims of divorce, neglect, or abuse be given the classification of ( INS ) In need of supervision. For juvenile offenders the classification of ( Juvenile Delinquent ) and for serious crimes ( To be tried as an adult ). Women were mojority on costodial custody of minor children, regardless of there criminal activities. Using children as pawns placing them in of harms way. The defendant upon notification of divorce imediatly ran with minor children crying wolf. A writ of habeus corpus was issued to the Plaintiff, the courts issued seven citations for contempt of court, assault, reckless endangerment of minors. The actual case is much more severe. The term deadbeat dad, emerged. There are just as many dead beat momas as there are dads. Child support of over two times the required amount was being paid to the defendant. When asked for reciept of payment there was none. Purgury charges added produced a time line, of false statement (testimony) was admitted against the Paintiff. Do to curruptoin and greed All payments made were considered a gift, by law. The plaintiff on a treadmill for good, being denied visitation from day one. While the defendant nearly kills on of the minors. As the Plaintiff becomes aware of hospitalization of minor with a collapsed lung and near death. A felony charge falsley manufactured and unknown by the plaintiff with the intent to permenantly disable any chance of recovery socialy, professionaly, finacialy. Case law research uncovered in Keyed Volumes putting the names and manufactured sworn testimony recoverable. Ignorance of the law was the only exuse. The Plaintiff once life time master tradesman, now criminal justice / paralegal student, uncovers extortion, racketeering, manufacturing evidence, Several state and federal statutory, civil and criminal violations. The plaintiff is homeless and can not afford council, and alienated from his children. Still seeking justice.

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