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By BRENT SHANDING
Landmark News Service
Officials here recently recovered more than $20,000 in back child support from a Virginia man, with an apparent history of evading the child-support system. Despite that success, coaxing child support payments from other parents here is a growing challenge.
Collection of child support for the county’s more than 500 active files, fell sharply again this year. Child Support Enforcement officials with the Trimble County Attorney’s Office collected less than 58 percent of all past-due child support payments from June 2007 to June 2008. About one in four parents here were behind on their scheduled payments during that time, state records show.
Trimble ranks 114 out of 120 counties in terms of child support collection, according to the most recent state records supplied by Steve Veno, deputy commissioner of the Department for Income Support, Child Support Enforcement. That means fewer parents here are paying their child support payments, compared to the statewide average, and that more parents are delinquent on meeting those payments.
A CLOSER LOOK
Child-support recovery efforts in Trimble County have slipped more than 89 spots in the last two years. Trimble ranked No. 45 for child support collection in 2006, and as low as No. 25 in 2005. (A lower number denotes a better collection rate.) It’s now among the worst in the state, based on the most rankings.
“I’m not happy that the numbers have fallen,” said County Attorney Perry Arnold, whose office handles child support issues. “But I do feel like they are going to come up.”
Arnold said he hadn’t yet reviewed the state’s annual report – which evaluates each county’s child-support-recovery efforts based on a number of criteria – but he blamed the declines partly on personnel shifts and budgetary problems.
The county child-support office recently lost a veteran employee and now relies primarily on one full-time coordinator, who Arnold said, initially lacked training because of scheduling conflicts with the state. That worker has since completed training and collection figures should rebound sharply this quarter, Arnold said.
“Almost any county attorney would also tell you their office is under-funded,” because of growing state deficits, he added. It’s been nearly a decade since the office received a significant financial boost to help families collect on child support debt.
Despite those challenges, Arnold says his office continues to crack down on parents who fail to pay child support. Offenders who fail to pay can have their paychecks garnished or liens can be placed on their property to collect debt. Deadbeat parents also face jail time, Arnold said.
“I’m just not going to tolerate it,” he said of parents, who persistently fail to pay child support.
At least one surrounding county is considering extreme limits to curb the amount of child support owed there.
Carroll County officials already revoke the drivers license of some parents who don’t pay child support and officials there will consider placing Denver boots, or wheel clamps, on offender’s cars, rendering them inoperable until payment is made.
Carroll County Assistant County Attorney Nick Marsh said his office could also notify all the bars in the area and tell them not to serve alcohol to someone behind on payments.
“If you’ve got money to drink, you’ve got money to pay your child support,” Marsh said. “We can take away all your fun.”
Although private child-support agreements are sometimes reached between parents, those needing help collecting, or enforcing, child support payments are eligible for free help through a federal system known as the IV-D (pronounced 4-D) program, taken from Title IV, Section D of the U.S. Social Security Act, outlining child support.
The County Attorney’s office can help establish paternity and once court-ordered payments have been established, the office can help in collecting money. In most cases, the court will garnish the wages of the responsible party to ensure that any debt owed is collected.
“If they’re working, it’s automatically coming out of their check,” Arnold said.
The minimum payment in Kentucky is $60 a month, based on earned wages.
While Arnold said that’s admittedly not enough to support a child, it’s a start. Child support payments can always be re-negotiated through the court system.
“We’re here in the interest of the child,” Arnold said.
Some information for this story was compiled with help from the Carrollton News-Democrat.