Photo of Ross Brockway

Ross Brockway

  • Hosted by Georgia Justice Project
  • Sponsored by FordHarrison LLP, Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Service location Atlanta, Georgia
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Family Law
  • Fellowship class year 2018
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Ross represented low-income people in child support proceedings, and advocate for child support reform, in order to end cycles of incarceration, impoverishment, and forceful separation of families.

Federal law requires courts to assess parents’ ability to pay before setting child support orders and levying consequences for nonpayment, but Georgia frequently demands amounts that parents cannot afford and then harshly punishes them for falling behind.  Particularly for families with an incarcerated parent or a parent with record-based employment barriers, child support debt punishments criminalize poverty and, instead of supporting children, leave them abandoned. By suspending driver’s licenses, garnishing wages, jailing parents for inability to pay, and continuing to impose debt during and following incarceration, the system unjustly separates children from their parents and solidifies poverty for the next generation.

Fellowship Highlights

Ross assisted over 35 incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated parents to modify unaffordable child support orders and reinstate driver’s licenses so they could obtain stable employment, reconnect with their children, and support their families—socially, emotionally, and financially.  He represented and secured the liberty of four parents who faced incarceration solely because they were too poor to pay off court-ordered child support debt, successfully arguing for the release of one man who had been incarcerated for over nine months because of his poverty. Ross provided advice and/or referrals to an additional 215 individuals. With the help of Georgia Justice Project’s social workers and other attorneys, he supported parents to expunge records and obtain employment so they could stabilize their lives and strengthen their families. He also co-wrote draft legislation and formed a working group of advocates committed to reforming child support debt policies, beginning a campaign that will continue until Georgia law is more just and effective for poor families.

Next Steps

Ross has stayed on at Georgia Justice Project, continuing his work advocating for the end of criminalization of family poverty through child support debt punishments. Part of his work includes representing low-income people in criminal defense cases and criminal record expungement cases, fighting alongside individuals and families as they seek freedom and restoration.

Media

How COVID-19 Lays the Groundwork for Child Support Debtor’s Prisons

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