July 4, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
This case is finally over (KTRK, 7/2/14). Well, it’s over for everyone except the dad, Cliff Hall.
I first reported on Hall here. He’s the Houston father who was ordered to jail for failure to pay child support. The only problem with that was the fact that he’d paid every penny he owed. So how’d Judge Lisa Millard figure he was behind? It seems he was working for AT&T that was supposed to withhold his child support payments from his paychecks. But due to what is universally being called a “clerical error,” apparently the company either failed to do so at all or was sending the money to the wrong place.
The single father was jailed June 24 by the order of a Harris County civil court judge. He was taken to court after he was late on a child support payment at the start of the year, when he lost his job. Child support was to be deducted from his paycheck at his new job, but his employer admitted to a clerical error.
When Hall went to court last week, his attorneys say he had paid all the money that the employer failed to withhold. However, Hall's lawyers charge a change in state law, which makes even a clerical error capable of sending a parent, such as Hall to jail.
Whatever the case, Hall was paid up in full when Judge Millard ordered him to serve six months in jail. That raised a good bit of ire on the part of everyone who read about the case. After all, isn’t the purpose of child support the child’s well-being? Given that the child had received everything owed, what exactly was the problem? And if we’re going to put someone in jail, shouldn’t he at least have done something wrong? And finally, why go out of our way to put a father behind bars since that will only mean the child receives less support and the dad falls further behind?
In short, given all the bad it does, what good is done by putting Cliff Hall in jail?
Those seem like pertinent questions, but they were uniformly ignored by Judge Millard. She ordered Hall to do six months in jail and, following his fruitless appeal, last week he reported to jail. Now, eight days later, he’s out. For reasons I can only guess at, Millard relented and let Hall go. That of course was the right thing to do in the first place, so it makes me wonder why she wasted so much time, money and judicial resources to come to the conclusion she should have reached months ago.
Remarkably, Mom thinks Hall should be in jail still.
In Hall's case, his ex, who is the mother of his child, opposed Wednesday's motion to release Hall from jail. Her attorney asked he be kept a month behind bars, then serve out the remainder of what was to be a six-month sentence on weekends.
Nice. Let’s see; she’s gotten every penny she’s owed, but she still wants the father of her child in jail. That’s about as hateful and vindictive as it gets, but as it turns out this should make her happy:
The judge Wednesday ruled in Hall's favor, to a point. Now outstanding are the attorneys' fees the child support case generated. Hall's lawyers place them at $9,000 or more. That includes paying the legal fees for his ex, who took him to court. Another thousand dollars is owed on this month's child support installment.
Yes, Hall is still behind and will be for months or years to come. Why? He owes attorney’s fees to his ex for a case that never should have been brought in the first place. He’s paid what he owes, didn’t know the money wasn’t being withheld and has done no wrong. So I suppose, in the perverse world of family court, he should be forced to pay for what he didn’t do. Makes sense.
Actually, what makes sense is for AT&T to pay those attorney’s fees, but something tells me that’s not going to happen.
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