Georgia 's New Way of Approaching Child Support Penalties

Georgia parents living in the Hall County region who were late on child support paymentsrecently had an opportunity to clear their delinquency penalty-free. Officials say this is a population of about 9,000 parents.

“This is basically an issue about amnesty,” said Hall’s Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard.

To Be Eligible for the Child Support Settlement

For the parents to be able to participate in the settlement they had to visit a local Division of Child Support Services office to make a payment, sign a written payment agreement, or get information on programs that seek to help noncustodial parents stay current on their payments. The visit had to be made during the set time period from May 19-23. The program was created as a way to incentivize noncustodial parents who want to be compliant with the payments, but are fearful of penalties. In Georgia, these penalties can amount to more than a fine; offenders can be jailed.

“We can prosecute abandonment, which is an interesting criminal charge which says if you leave a child without means, that is a crime,” said Hall’s Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard. “It’s a really big deal, because if parents don’t take care of their kids who does?”

Child Support Can Fall to the State

The usual answer is that it falls to the state to take care of kids whose parents are not taking care of them. But the state also doesn’t want to shoulder the cost of an offender’s incarceration. As a result Hall County has a Parental Accountability Court. The court is a joint effort between Georgia Child Support Services. It reports that about four in 10 noncustodial parents under court order to pay child support aren’t consistently paying.

Parental Accountability Court as Alternative to Incarceration for Not Paying Child Support

“As an alternative to jail time, the six-month program focuses on resolving the causes for nonpayment, such as substance abuse and unemployment,” said Woodard. This court helps to guild people through a positive outcome that does not involve incarceration. “That’s one of the reasons why the parent accountability court is so important, because it keeps people out of jail, and attempts to get them to work,” Woodard said.

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