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Reading is difficult. As a writer, I help the reader every way I can think of. As a reader, I work hard not to miss the big things in the middle of the road.

Friday, September 2, 2011

United States Supreme Court Establishes Protections for Child Support Civil Contemnors

In this child support collection case, Daddy--without a lawyer--was sued by Mamma--without a lawyer. In a civil contempt hearing, the judge found Daddy in willful contempt and sentenced him to 12 months in prison without making any finding as to his ability to pay or indicating on the contempt order form whether he was able to make support payments. After he served his sentence, the South Carolina Supreme Court rejected his claim to a right to counsel.
The United States Supreme Court has held that the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires that an indigent defendant get an appointed lawyer for a criminal case in which the defendant is at risk of incarceration. The Sixth Amendment does not govern civil cases.
The Due Process Clause requires that an alleged civil contemnor receive:
  • adequate notice of the importance of the ability to pay in order to be held in civil contempt;
  • fair opportunity to present relevant information;
  • fair opportunity to dispute relevant information; and
  • court findings.

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