Pay Support or Go to Jail?

Last week Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider asked a judge to send him to jail because he can’t pay the spousal support he owes. Schneider apparently owes over $150,000 in alimony to his ex-wife Elly Schneider. He was previously sentenced to 3 days in jail for contempt for his failure to pay, but was let out right away because of jail overcrowding.

The court set certain conditions for him to avoid additional jail time, including paying Elly half of the earnings he is owed from Maven Entertainment, filing certain tax returns, and making certain financial disclosures.

But John would rather do time behind bars because he says he can’t pay. He says he’s taken out all sorts of loans and can’t do it anymore. When they divorced, he was ordered to pay nearly $19,000 per month in alimony.

Here’s the problem: In family court, you don’t typically get the option to pay the money or go to jail. Going to jail doesn’t wipe out the back support you owe. It’s simply an incentive to get you to pay. It’s a punishment for not complying with the court’s orders earlier. It is doubtful that the court will wipe out Schneider’s debt to his ex simply because he’s volunteering to do jail time.

More likely, his ex could agree to some sort of settlement, whereby he pays a smaller lump sum in order to settle his debt to her. Her lawyers have the right idea, though. They’ve asked the court to have a hearing so they can question him about his claimed financial condition.

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