A slew of parents emailed NewsChannel 3, saying the state's child-support enforcement agency needs to take a tougher stand against deadbeat dads and moms.
They are reacting to a NewsChannel 3 investigation that showed the state's Division of Child Support Enforcement has backed away from its toughest tactics to collect debts from deadbeats. The agency abandoned its Top 10 list showcasing the worst offenders, and case workers are more likely to recommend job counseling for parents who owe money rather than jail time.
When asked if the DCSE had gone soft, Ron Harris, an assistant director, said, "No, I don't think so. We still have a responsibility to that family. I guess the best word is 'evolution.'"
Eileen Fennell, one of those who emailed, said the agency's softer stance and slow reactions mean exes like hers know how to work the system. When her son's father moves, she says it takes around 90 days for Virginia's agency to start working with its counterpart in the news state. That, she says, allows her ex to work without paying his full obligation. As soon as Virginia garnishes her ex's paycheck, he quits the job and moves again. She said he also knows if he pays even a portion of his monthly bill, he'll stay out of jail.
"I can wallpaper with court orders," she said. "They mean nothing... The system is very easy to manipulate when it moves as slow as it does."
Several others echoed her concern. Some said the non-paying parents are frequent no-shows in court, or drag out the court process for more than a year. Meanwhile, the parent caring for the child foots the bill. Still others said if the ex pays even a few dollars a month, child-support workers won't push for more.
Fennell said if the state is moving to a more compassionate model for non-paying parents, that's the wrong way.
"They have to be stricter," she said. "They have to come down with a firmer hand."
If you are owed child-support from a non-paying parent, and neither you nor the state knows where that parent is, email Mike Mather at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He'll use his resources to track down the non-paying parents to make sure they’re not ducking their obligations.