Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Clermont County sees jump in child support indictments

By Lew Moores lmoores@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BATAVIA — The number of cases referred to the Clermont County prosecutor's office for failure to pay child support has risen dramatically since December as authorities target deadbeat parents.

        One county Child Support Enforcement investigator now works full-time tracking down deadbeat parents.

        From December through March, more than 70 people have been indicted on charges of failure to pay. That compares with about 50 indictments annually in previ ous years.

        “Having those cases under one investigator allows for more focus placed on our most complicated cases,” said Brenda Gilreath, deputy director for Child Support Enforcement. “There's a lot of paperwork associated with it as far as going through case files. They take a lot of time to research and refer to the prosecutor.”

        A person who fails to make 26 payments out of a consecutive 104 weeks qualifies for felony charges.

        In 2001, the county was able to collect $482,000 from people convicted of failing to pay child sup port. As of April 30 this year, close to $195,000 has been collected.

        Don White, Clermont County prosecutor, said very few of those convicted of failing to pay wind up in prison.

        “Some end up not paying while they're on probation, and they go to prison,” said Mr. White. “But that's a small percentage. We want the felony conviction to be held over their heads so that they don't fall into the same pattern again.”

        Usually, offenders land in an intensive probation program, where they're required to pay and a probation officer checks on them.

        Ms. Gilreath does not believe people failing to pay are increasing in number: “It's the focus that's resulted in a significant increase in referrals to the prosecutor's office.”

        The referrals at times are a last resort.

        “When we take that type of action, we have been through other enforcement remedies, which were not successful,” said Ms. Gilreath. “We may have tried contempt of court, wage (garnishments) or just trying to locate them. We try other avenues first.”


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