October 10, 2011 9:13:00 AM
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Over the past year, about 20 people have been indicted on felony charges for not paying court-ordered child children.
"We go after the worst of the worst and try to create a deterrent," Attorney General Jim Hood told The Clarion-Ledger.
The Mississippi Department of Human Services pursues so-called deadbeat parents through civil action.
"We are very aggressive. Our emphasis is on support," said Division of Child Support Enforcement director Walley Naylor.
Under state law, nonpayment also is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Hood said his office has averaged about 20 indictments a year since 2008. This year, it expects to surpass that number as it takes on more cases.
"Pretty much everyone we indict is being sentenced," Hood said.
The attorney general's office has set up a loose set of criteria for the cases it pursues -- parents often owe more than $10,000 and they have not made one payment in a year.
"We can't prosecute them all," Hood said.
Also typically all other avenues have been exhausted in chancery court and the parent is considered to be in contempt of a judge's order.
Another factor, Hood said, is that his office makes every effort to ensure that the parent is able to work.
Since 2008, more than $600,000 has been ordered in child support payments.
"It's still just a small part of those who are even in contempt of court," Hood said.
Jackson attorney Mark Chinn, who has practiced family law for more than 20 years, said he applauds Hood's efforts.
"Any aggressive action that can be taken is to be commended," he said. "Anything that can be done should be done."
Naylor said he appreciates Hood's efforts, but the DHS division he heads takes a different approach.
"We view incarceration as a tool, but we recognize that it's best used in short terms," he said.
Naylor said he also hears from parents who say they don't pay support because they think the other parent is using it to his or her own personal benefit. He said that's damaging to the child.
"I'm not in the ex-wife support business or the ex-girlfriend support business," Naylor said. "I'm in the child support business. That's what you have to keep in mind -- the child."
Naylor said there also are those who are legitimately struggling to find jobs.
"You have both," Naylor said. "Some people just refuse to pay, but we find more and more today - folks are just struggling."
The amount of child support that is garnered through unemployment benefits has gone up nearly a third in the past year, he said.
justme34 commented at 10/11/2011 2:59:00 PM:
I have a 12 12 year old that I have taken care of by myself for her entire life. I requested help to get childsupport when she was about a week old. I have seen nothing. I hope that it gets better. Give it all you got!
email@example.com commented at 10/12/2011 5:43:00 AM:
Child support is due to all who qualify. I have paid it for 22 years even when I had no job and was required to pay it in full based on my income. DHS hounded me each and every month to pay it when I was unemployed. Little did I know, by LAW that I could have had a review of my case that would have reduced the amount paid based on income. I personally know 5 ladies that have not received one cent in CS for many years. DHS was quoted to them that they know where the men are, but do nothing to collect the CS due. Come one DHS lets do your job. Your hounded me, I payed, now get these women what they deserve. I'm addressing this to you CLay County DHS. Do your job....you hounded me because I did pay.
jcwilliams commented at 10/12/2011 7:51:00 AM:
This is another reason parents should remain together and raise their children. Single mothers with children usually live in poverty. Divorce is sometimes definitely neccessary but many times it is adults acting like children wanting freedom to do as they please. The child is the one that suffers...!
roscoe p. coltrain commented at 10/13/2011 7:16:00 AM:
Under no circumstances should parents "remain together" simply for the sake of raising a child. You'll be fooling no one, especially the child, and this is nothing but yet another foolish church notion based on nonsense.
However, what should be done is forethought about getting involved in the whole marriage concept to begin with instead of leaping into it just because there's nothing on TV right now. And the age requirement should be raised high enough that individuals whose brains are barely developed enough to tie their own shoe laces can't marry.
And the best thing to do, especially in THIS state, is to never get yourself into a situation that allows the State to become involved in your life. Nothing good will come of it. Stay single...stay free.
incognito8953 commented at 10/17/2011 8:01:00 PM:
Lowndes County may be different. I have a friend whose ex-husband owes over $23,000 in child support. From what I understand, this "man" works for cash, or lives off of his girlfriend, and when he gets tracked down by private investigation, Lowndes County DHS does nothing, advising that he lives out-of-state. Meantime, this wonderful lady struggles to make ends meet, and supports their children by herself. Mr Jim Hood, if you want my vote, return my calls.
1. Convictions for police officer defendants rare COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. New Columbus Arts Council director looks for more long-term donations COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. The Book of Joe: LINK CEO Higgins enlists ghostwriter to work on book project COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Officials respond to voting concerns at Union precinct COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY