Dads Against the Divorce Industry

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Fathers, Men, and The Law:

'Deadbeat parents' face federal time

By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

Parents who run from their obligations to pay child support now risk more than sliced paychecks or suspended driver's licenses.

**DA*DI Note: Go to
"Deadbeat dads more myth than reality", or
U.S. Census Bureau Data [80% with shared custody pay] for the real facts.

Much child support still owed**

Despite an increase in the number of child-support cases that are resolved, the percentage of cases in which money is paid is still small. Fewer than one in four cases result in payments.
Year Number of cases in which money is owed Number of cases in which money is paid Percent of cases in which money is paid
1993 17.1 million 3.1 million 18.1%
1994 18.6 million 3.4 million 18.3%
1995 19.2 million 3.7 million 19.3%
1996 19.8 million 4.0 million 20.2%
1997 19.0 million 4.2 million 22.1%
Source: Health and Human Services Department. Note: 1997 statistics are the most recent available.

Under a new federal program, they can get arrested at gunpoint and thrown in prison.

Operating in seven states and the District of Columbia, the program combines a computer network with the crime-fighting talents of police and U.S. marshals. The point: to nab parents who cross state lines to avoid supporting their children. More than 200 arrests have been made so far, which could bring in $3.8 million in overdue child support.

The program, an outgrowth of last year's federal "Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act," allows agents working for the inspector general's office of the Department of Health and Human Services to carry guns and issue arrest warrants.

Since it started last spring, the program has nabbed some notorious "deadbeats." A former Border Patrol agent who quit his job and moved from his children was arrested at his scuba school in Hawaii. A lawyer and plastic surgeon was arrested in New York on charges that he owed more than $172,000. A police chief was arrested in Wyoming on charges of failing to pay child support in New York.

This month, a man in Fairfax, Va., got a 20-month prison term for failing to pay $106,000 to his three children. The man had fled from authorities twice, once to Israel and once to Galveston, Texas, where he was arrested.

"These parents did not walk away from their families, they ran, " says Wallace Dutkowski, director of Michigan's child support office.

Nationwide, less than 25% of the $60 billion owed in child support is collected. Nearly one-third of the money must be tracked across state lines. About 30 million children depend on child support.

Legislation will be introduced in Congress Thursday that would take child support enforcement duties from the states and give them to the Internal Revenue Service, which already collects about $1 billion annually in child support by tapping parents' income-tax refunds. The legislation has failed to advance in Congress in previous years.

In the meantime, the federal government has recently mandated a 50-state computer network and a method of tracking newly hired workers through their employers. Even so, the most clever child support evaders remain elusive.

"You still have to have a penalty for not paying," says John Hartwig, deputy inspector general for investigations at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Under the new federal program, parents with child support debts of at least $5,000 can be imprisoned for up to two years if they cross state lines.

Officials in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, where the program began last year, say the threat of arrests leads more parents to pay what they owe. The program was expanded this year to include Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia. It will be expanded to 10 more states later this year: Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, California, Oregon and Washington.

One of those helped by the program was Joy Marriner, who has been unable for most of the past 15 years to collect child support from her ex-husband. Federal agents seized him in Washington state last year by breaking into his apartment. "I would have loved to have been there," Marriner says. A judge ordered the father to pay all $19,000 he owes while on probation for the next five years.

Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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