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Can you go to prison over your debts?

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2021 | Bankruptcy

Many people get into financial trouble for a variety of reasons ranging from losing a job to suffering from a medical emergency. It’s important for you and others who are struggling to understand that you likely will not face any kind of imprisonment for failing to pay a civil debt.

There are times, though, when you could be imprisoned. Though it is not always likely, it’s possible that you could be imprisoned for failing to pay child support or your income taxes.

When are you at risk of going to prison for debt?

Most of the time, the only way you’ll end up in prison for a debt is if you have failed to pay taxes or court-mandated child support and refuse to try to make arrangements to pay down what you owe. Even the Internal Revenue Service is unlikely to put you in jail for failing to pay federal taxes. The IRS has several payment plan options, and there are tax-relief options that may help, too.

With child support and similar court-ordered payments, you could also face imprisonment for refusing to pay. Most judges won’t go through with this, since a parent who isn’t working won’t be able to pay at all. However, those who are outright refusing to pay or making no effort to improve their circumstances may end up in jail.

Will your credit card debt send you to prison? It’s unlikely

Civil debts include credit card debt, medical bills, student loans and some other kinds of debt. Debt collectors are able to file lawsuits against you, but if you appear or set up an arrangement to pay down what you owe, you shouldn’t have to worry about jail or prison. On the other hand, if you don’t appear in court after being ordered to appeal, you could face contempt charges. Those could end up leading to your arrest.

Plainly put, it’s unlikely that your civil debt will lead to imprisonment of any kind. However, you should talk to someone who understands the laws and make sure that you are taking steps to resolve the debts that you owe.

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The Law Office of Kim Covington is a debt relief agency, and I have helped families, individuals and small businesses, file for bankruptcy relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, for over 22 years.