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Friday, June 27, 2014

New Family Texas Law Sends Texas Dad to Jail After Employer’s Child Support Withholding Error

Dreydon and Clifford Hall

Clifford Hall and 12-year-old son Dreydon Hall

Harris County, TX — On Tuesday, June 24, 2014, Texas father Clifford Hall voluntarily arrived at the Harris County Civil Courthouse and was taken into custody to begin a six-month jail sentence. Hall’s complex child support case received international attention last year when he received the harshest punishment under the law. Hall was sentenced to six months in jail even though he became current on child support arrearages made late at the fault of his then employer AT&T.

“My client Clifford Hall is one of the first casualties of the repeal of Texas Family Code Section 157.162(d) that formerly protected parents who were current in the payment of child support,” said Eraka Watson, Hall’s new legal counsel with The Childs Law Firm. “In June of 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature repealed the law (HB 847) making a jail sentence a judgment option for being in contempt of the court for failure to pay child support. There are no exceptions, there is no notice served to the defendant indicating a period of time to cure the default. The law is not defensible,” said attorney Watson.

“Repeal of the Texas Family Code was initially meant to deter dead-beat dads from being chronic offenders of late child support and making last minute payments before their court date,” continued attorney Watson. “However, in Mr. Hall’s case, he was unaware that the child support payments being withheld from his check were not getting to the court due to the employer’s clerical error. Unfortunately, even after Mr. Hall paid the arrearages and court fees, and had a positive balance, he was sentenced to six months in jail for child support underpayment and over-visitation. Prior to the repeal, my client could not have been incarcerated. Because his case was reset six times until after the repeal, Mr. Hall was held in contempt and sentenced to jail.”

“Ultimately, it is Mr. Hall’s responsibility to ensure his child support payments are being paid according to the court’s order,” stated attorney Watson. “However, in Mr. Hall’s case, while he had previously been behind in child support in 2010 due to being out of work, since that time, he had consistent child support payments and employment. He did not fall behind until the clerical error by his employer occurred. Under the previous law, a good father like Mr. Hall would not have been punished for trying to do the right thing once he was made aware of the error.”

Hall’s attorneys have exhausted all appeal recourses. Attorney Eraka Watson will file a motion for reconsideration introducing the AT&T sworn affidavit for the existing court’s consideration. In addition to admitting withholding errors the affidavit states, “We never notified Mr. Hall regarding the fluctuation of his withholding. No one, other than Mr. Hall, ever contacted this office regarding this error. Our initial discovery of this error occurred when Mr. Hall contacted this office in the fall of 2013.” The affidavit was signed and delivered to Hall’s previous attorney on January 21, 2014, and was not available nor considered during Hall’s November 18, 2013 hearing.

The motion for reconsideration, if successful, could mean Hall’s freedom. If the motion is not successful, Hall’s lawyer will take the next course of legal action to free Hall.

Attorney Watson will also seek full custody for Mr. Hall of 12-year-old Dreydon Hall, his son.

Regarding the repealed legislation (HB 847 sponsored by State Representative Eddie Lucio III [D] and Senator Jose Rodriguez [D]) attorney Watson seeks to help influence a reinstatement of the law and the repeal lifted providing the right of due process equally to both parents.

“My son’s welfare is my highest priority,” said Clifford Hall. “Jail time is not in the best interest of my son. I face losing my job, time with my son and incurring more legal fees all because I tried to do what’s right.”

The Dreydon Project has been established to help educate parents regarding their custodial and non-custodial rights under the law, and to help defray the cost of legal representation in cases like Hall’s. Members of the public interested in helping Hall are invited to make donations at www.gofundme.com/the-dreydon-project.

Attorney Eraka Watson is now the sole legal counsel for Clifford Hall in both the child support and child custody matters. Press inquiries, requests for interviews or statements, or other matters concerning the Clifford Hall case are to be directed to MWH Public Relations or attorney Watson.

About Attorney Eraka Watson
Born on Galveston Island, Eraka Watson of The Childs Law Firm is proud to call herself a fifth generation Texan. Watson received her B.A. in Business in 1994 from Southwestern University, located in Georgetown, Texas, and received J.D. in 1997 from South Texas College of Law. She represents clients in court and before administrative agencies, including the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, Department of Labor and the Texas Workforce Commission-Civil Rights Division. Watson’s clients have included those in the insurance, oil and gas, and health care industries. For more information, visit www.childslawfirm.com

Margo E. Williams
MWH Public Relations
Office: 281-213-9554
Cell: 832-492-2407