Facing jail time, deadbeat parents seeking lawyers

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A South Carolina father who was repeatedly jailed after insisting he couldn't make child-support payments of about $50 a week is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to end five states' practice of locking up delinquent parents without providing them with a lawyer.

In a case that will be argued before the high court on Wednesday, Michael Turner contends that poor people who are facing time behind bars for missing payments have a right to an attorney at taxpayer expense. Florida, Maine, New Hampshire and Ohio are the other states where deadbeat parents are not automatically given a lawyer in such cases.

Opponents say providing lawyers would prove costly and would clog an already cumbersome legal process and that deadbeats already control their own destinies: If they pay, they go free.

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