By Jedidiah McKeehan

There are individuals across this country who do not pay their child support.  There are many who do not even try to pay their child support.  While that in and of itself is tragic and unfortunate, how do the courts deal with these individuals?  How do they threaten them in to paying child support?

If you throw non-paying individuals in jail, they cannot work to pay child support, but if you do not hold jail over their head as a threat to get them to pay, how can the courts threaten these people in to paying?

There is not a great answer, but the courts and lawmakers have decided that the best thing they can do is jail non-payers and if someone does pay a bond to get them out of jail, that bond payment is to go toward their child support obligation.

What law actually gives the court the authority to jail non-payers?  Tennessee Code Annotated 36-5-104 gives courts and judges the ability to jail those individuals who do not pay.  That statute actually allows courts to jail individuals for a period of up to 6 months for non-payment of child support.  And that possible 6-month stay is not a one-time thing.  When you get out of jail, the court will give you a few months on the outside to see if you will pay, and if you do not, they will again issue a warrant for your arrest.

The statute says a number of other things, like the court can order individuals to do litter pickup, although I have never seen this done.

Bottom line: pay your child support, or eventually you will end up facing jail time.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.