Child support is something that affects many people in Colorado. Unfortunately, some people fail to make their payments for various reasons. Supreme Court members are now facing a decision about whether parents who are too poor to pay child support should be entitled to a court-appointed attorney.
This argument comes on the heels of a case in which a man was held in civil contempt multiple times and eventually jailed for failing to pay child support. The man said he could not afford to make the payments and believes a lawyer may have been able to convince the judge that he should not be jailed because of it. His current lawyer says that anyone facing jail time or the loss of freedom should be provided an attorney.
Holding someone in civil contempt is meant to be a persuasive technique that encourages people to pay up and avoid jail time. Federal law does not currently extend the right to a lawyer to those involved in civil contempt cases. Those involved in criminal proceedings, however, are appointed a lawyer.
The majority of states have already made the right to a lawyer in cases of civil contempt a law, but the Supreme Court justices have expressed some concern over allowing the national legislation to reach that far. One justice stated that a ruling like this one would affect thousands of domestic relations cases across the country.
A lawyer involved in the previously discussed case suggests that appointing lawyers to everyone in need would hurt the effectiveness of child support cases, which are currently relatively informal. He also expressed concern that such a law might deter people seeking compensation for unpaid child support from taking any legal action.
According to a personal injury law firm, the justices are being urged by the federal government to make a decision that falls somewhere in the middle. It suggested in a recent brief that appointing an attorney is not always necessary in these civil contempt cases, saying that creating a way for a person to prove his or her financial means may be beneficial. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court decides.