A Houston father heads to jail this week to serve a six-month sentence after a clerical error caused him to unknowingly neglect paying child support for half a year.
"It's not me I'm really worried about: It's him," Clifford Hall said of his 12-year-old son, according to KPRC-TV. "How is he going to be for the next six months? I can't live not knowing am I going to jail today? Am I going to jail tomorrow? I want to get it over with."
Clifford Hall surrendered himself to serve a six-month jail sentence Tuesday after he was sued for being delinquent on child support payments, payments which he made up before his initial court hearing. (Image source: KHOU-TV)
According to KHOU-TV, Hall didn't even know there was a problem with the automatic payments he had set up through his employer until his ex-wife was suing him in 2013. Hall's employer admitted to making a clerical error that resulted in payment not being passed onto his ex-wife. After the mistake was noticed, the father paid the $2,000 he owed her, but that didn't change the court's decision to have him serve time in jail.
“The money was withheld from me, they didn’t send it off for some strange reason,” Hall told KHOU of the mistake.
Texas law allows judges to issue jail time to those who are late in paying child support, even if the balance is paid by the time the hearing takes place. An appeals court judge, who upheld the court's initial ruling that came with a jail sentence, said the employer's mistake was not entered as evidence at this time.
“The law says you can [no] longer cure an error with payment. The judge has the discretion to send you to jail,” Hall’s appeals attorney Tyesha Elam told KHOU.
Expounding upon this point to KPRC, Elam specified that the money has to be delivered by the first of the month or risk jail time. Hall was also accused of violating a visitation schedule, keeping his son away from his mother longer than permitted, the news station reported.
Watch KHOU-TV's report:
Before turning himself in to serve his sentence, Hall said goodbye to his son.
"I told him, 'I’m gonna fix it.' That's it," Hall said through tears.
When asked if he wanted visits from his son while serving his time, Hall quietly said "no."
Hall's attorneys told the news station they think the law should require a parent delinquent on payments at least be notified of the issue before they are sued.
Hall told KPRC he hopes that other fathers can "please learn from my experience."
While Hall serves his sentence, lawyers are appealing the case in federal court, according to KHOU.