On a cold, crisp day in New York a few weeks ago, Damon Dash or “Dame Dash,” who is best known as a co-founder of Roc-A-Fella with Jay-Z and Kareem “Biggs” Burke was arrested for failure to pay child support.  And before you go thinking that the child support authorities in New York were “doing too much” or “being extra,” you probably should know that Dame owed BIG BUCKS to his ex-wife and baby mama. And not just any old back child support either, no Dame was nabbed because of two arrest warrants.  But context and details matter right? Damn right they do… in this instance, the DEETS are these: back in April of 2015 a Bronx family court Judge issued an arrest warrant for $62,000 in back support Dame allegedly owed to Cindy Morales, his ex-girlfriend, also known in some circles as a baby mama.  Then earlier this year, Dame was found guilty of contempt for failure to pay a whopping $342,000 to his ex-wife, Rachel Roy.


According to Dame, he was released after paying a cool million dollars to authorities. I’m not sure where the million dollar amount comes from given the amounts reportedly owed for back child support. But the point is this, generally speaking there are no “debtor’s prisons” in America but child support is an exception to this general rule because not paying child support can land you in jail until the back support is paid. This is what’s called a “purge bond.”


What are purge bonds and do they exist in Indiana? Glad you asked, different states call these types of bonds different things.  Technically, this is not a bond type in Indiana. Rather, in Indiana this is what is called a civil contempt which is defined as the willful disregard or disobedience of a court order. In other words, before someone is ordered to jail in this context, several things have to happen before they get “Dame Dashed!” First, the Court had to have previously found that the person had a child support obligation and ordered the person to pay the obligation every so often, most common is a weekly support order, which is paid bi-weekly because most people are paid bi-weekly. Then, the person has to have failed to pay as ordered by the Court. I should note here that this is not a scenario where as soon as someone misses a payment, they’re found in contempt and locked up. No, it’s actually quite the opposite, in most cases, someone has to be in DEEP back support DOO DOO in order to face the possibility of being locked up for non-payment. In most cases in Indianapolis (Marion County), by the time someone is in jeopardy of being locked up: there has been multiple hearings, they’ve had multiple admonishments to pay their child support obligations, sometimes they’ve been ordered to participate in work programs or perform community service, they’ve had their driving licenses suspended and lastly, they’ve received the dreaded, “make all payments or go to jail” warning. Then, and only then will the Courts consider a finding of contempt, jail and the issuance of a bond in order to be released. If the bond is posted with the Court, it is applied towards the back child support arrearage owed.


I hope that the previous paragraph made clear that Indiana Courts generally don’t send people to jail prior to trying everything under sun in order to encourage, help and motivate them to pay child support obligations. But aside from the Courts efforts, there are some things that you can do in order avoid being locked up for failure to pay child support.

  1. Don’t Take An “All or Nothing” Approach:  one of the most common mistakes people make is to see child support payments as an “all or nothing” proposition. For example, if your weekly child support obligation is $75.00 per week, it would be a mistake to take the stance that if you don’t have the full $75.00, then you simply can’t pay your support. Rather, the smart thing to do would be to pay whatever you can at the time, so it is better to pay $50.00 towards your support for several reasons. First, with your $50.00 payment, you’re only $25.00 behind in support instead of $75.00 and it’s a lot better to go to court with something paid as opposed to nothing. And most importantly, your child gets something as opposed to nothing.
  2. Maybe Modification is in order: sometimes the child support obligation is too much. The most common example of this scenario is where the court sets a child support obligation and then something happens that makes it very difficult, if not impossible for the person to pay their child support obligation. In situations like this it is possible to request a modification of the child support obligation to make it more affordable.
  3. Make Finding Adequate Employment Your Mission. I’ve heard Judges say in court, that if you don’t have a job, then finding a job should become your job. In other words, if you’re behind in support and either unemployed or underemployed, don’t just sit on your you know what falling further and further behind in child support.  Finding a job or finding a better job must become your mission. And beyond that, it’s very important to document all of your efforts. That way, even if you have to appear before a judge behind in support, you at least can show that you’re trying to do better by your children to pay your support obligation. Believe me, this goes a long way towards keeping your you know what out of jail. SIDE NOTE: Failure to pay child support can be a Level 5 or 6 Felony In Indiana as well but that’s for an article on another day.