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Former NBA player Kenneth Ray "Kenny" Williams has been sentenced to nine months in prison for failing to pay more than $660,000 in child support.
Williams, 44, a former forward for the Indiana Pacers, wound up in a North Carolina federal court after dodging his support obligations since the 1990s.
His tragic family law tale is a reminder that failure to pay child support can land you in jail -- and it hurts everyone involved.
Failure to Pay Child Support
Failure to pay child support is a felony. The payment amount is determined by the financial needs of the child and the parent in custody as well as the income of the parent paying child support.
While Williams played with professional teams in Italy, France, and Israel, and was "staying in big houses and driving fancy cars," prosecutors said, his former wife and three children -- now 23, 21 and 20 -- were on welfare, reports Raleigh's News & Observer.
Williams, a player who didn't quite "make it" big-time, challenged salary figures provided by prosecutors -- which may be completely true. In such a case, the sensible (and legal) thing to do is to report your changed income and request a modification of your child support order.
But that's not how Williams
Prosecutors sought prison time for Williams after he reneged on a plea agreement and fled the country.
Williams was sentenced to nine months in prison followed by supervised probation. He also was ordered to pay $661,277 in restitution.
Prison as Last Resort
Imposing a prison sentence is a rarity for child support enforcement. More traditional punishments include wage deduction orders, fines, and license revocation -- measures aimed at getting money to the children rather than punishing the offender.
After all, the court wants to foster a relationship between the deadbeat dad and his children in order to promote the children's best interests.
One of Kenny Williams' children, 21-year-old Kenneth Williams Jr., told the judge that until his father's arrest and appearance in federal court, he had not seen him since he was in the third grade, reports the Observer. The sad reality is that Williams being sent to jail will likely further alienate the father and son and only constrain their nearly non-existent relationship.
This is why sending a deadbeat dad to jail is a last resort. It hurts everyone involved -- even the children the system is designed to protect.