Due to a clerical error, Texas father Clifford Hall received a bill charging him nearly $3,000 in overdue child support last year. Hall quickly repaid the amount, even paying an additional $1,000 to balance his debt. But despite his repayment, Hall was sentenced to six months in jail. He and his attorney Tyesha Elam joined host Nancy Redd to share his story on HuffPost Live.
Errors in the automated child support withdrawal amounts from Hall’s paycheck caused a payment shortage, but when Hall discovered this imbalance, he worked to pay it immediately.
Elam explained, “I assumed as soon as he brought me the receipt catching him up as well as the letter advising him of the overpayment, I thought, ‘oh this one will be easy.’ I’m thinking, ‘let me let the opposing counsel know and we’ll be done with this matter.'”
“But the opposing counsel informed me that she wasn’t willing to settle the case. She wanted $3,500 in attorney’s fees and she was confident from this judge that she could get it. So she refused to settle. So we had to move forward.”
The situation escalated due to a law in Texas, which stipulates that overdue child support could lead to jail time, Elam explained. “As of June 14, 2013, in the state of Texas, a person can get behind on their child support, show up to court, paid up, and still go to jail. The maximum sentence is 6 months in jail, and that is exactly what Mr. Hall was sentenced to.”
When he heard the verdict, Hall was shocked. “My mouth just dropped. I’m looking around–I looked at my attorney like, ‘she’s joking, she can’t be serious,'” he explained. “We’re just sitting there like, ‘wow, I’m going to jail for six months. I’m going to jail for six months. I’m going to jail. This is so unfair, this is not right, this isn’t justice. This is not right.’ How is this in my son’s best interest? That doesn’t even make sense.”
Elam was unable to appeal the judge’s decision, so Hall was left with no choice but to turn himself in. His sentence began on Jan. 21, 2014.