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Should parents who owe support be stopped from having more kids?

One of the most personal decisions we make in our lives is whether to have children. Most of the time, it is up to the parents alone, and no one else is involved — unless it is necessary to set up arrangements for child support and custody.

In those cases, the courts must either accept a plan developed by the child’s parents, or issue a custody and/or support order, if the parents cannot agree. The government may become involved again if a parent falls behind on child support. For instance, the court may garnish the parent’s wages, or even put him or her in jail.

A court case from outside of Virginia appears to take government involvement in a parent’s personal life to a new level. A court of appeals has upheld a provision in a court order that says a father of four cannot have any more children — or risk being put behind bars.

The man was put on probation in January 2013 for owing nearly $100,000 in support for his kids. Among the terms of his probation was that he not have more children until he has paid off the debt.

The case reached the state court of appeals. Recently, the appellate court upheld the order by a 2-1 vote. The judges did not decide the case on the merits. Instead, they ruled that they could not evaluate the trial judge’s reasoning, because they were not provided enough information. All they had to go on were the trial court’s journal entries, which the court of appeals said was not sufficient.

Therefore, the majority wrote, they must presume that the trial judge’s decision to restrict the father’s procreation activities was valid.

Source: The Chronicle-Telegram, “Appeals court: man can’t have more children until he pays child support,” Brad Dicken, May 13, 2014

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