Programs In Place That Benefit Families and Communities as a Whole
Eva Taylor is the Chief Negotiator in child support cases.
LIVINGSTON, August 27, 2008 - When it comes to enforcing Child Support, Polk, San Jacinto Counties and the City of Groveton have programs in place that are helping to make dead beat parents a thing of the past. "The whole idea is to get the non-custodial parent caught up on child support before it turns into a criminal matter" says probation director, Keith Barrett. The "non-custodial" parent is the parent that doesn't have custody of the child. "Without the program, the custodial parent would have to go through the expense of hiring a lawyer", he says. The program has been so successful that in 2007, Polk County brought in over $4,600,000 (four million six hundred thousand dollars) in delinquent and behind child support payments. San Jacinto County brought in over $2,000,000 in payments. The way it works is, non-custodial parents are summoned by the Attorney General to appear in court, at that time it is determined by the attorney's with the A.G.'s office if the non-custodial parent should be placed on probation. By law, if they're behind on child support, they must pay or the issue could become a criminal matter. In Polk County, Eva Taylor is where the rubber meets the road. Taylor is the Polk County Probation contact person and chief negotiator in these matters. "There's two sides to every story" she says referring to the separated parents and the issue of delinquent child support payments. "There are non-custodial parents who have had some genuinely hard times, it's my job to listen to what they have to say" Taylor says. "If I have a non-custodial parent whose behind on his or her payments, and they come in here wearing nice clothes and driving a late model car and partying while their kids are not receiving the financial support they need, then there's a problem". It then becomes Taylor's job to provide information and to have the non-custodial parent registered with the Texas Work Force Commission to ensure that they are making genuine attempts to gain successful employment so that they can provide child support payments as ordered by court, along with child support arrearage as well as medical support. This allows the non-custodial parent to not become a burden on the State of Texas by being incarcerated and provides child support as well as medical support. It's normal policy that within 90 days, if the non-custodial parent is not reporting or paying child support then legal action can be taken at that time and could result in a warrant for their arrest. "Once the defendant has been arrested and spent time in jail, the non-custodial parent comes back into my office and is ordered to continue community supervision and sometimes this lesson is the only lesson they need" Taylor says. Taylor knows all to well the importance of financial support. She herself was a single mother who raised a child and never received child support from the father. "It gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing that the custodial parent and the child are receiving monies owed to them by the biological parent" she says, "Without it, the child becomes a burden on the State of Texas through food-stamps, TANIF/Medicare, and other government entities". This makes the biological parent support the child, and not the hard working, tax-paying citizens through government programs. "It's a win win situation all the way around" Taylor says, "...the child and parent receive the financial support they so desperately need, and as a general rule, the non-custodial parent feels better about themselves by supporting their child". Most of the custodial parents live in Polk County, this puts the money right back in the county, where it is generally spent and helps the local economy.
Backbones in a successful program (L - R): Office Manager Theresa Milner, A.G. Attorney Jimmy Higgs, Chief Negotiator Eva Taylor, Probation Director Keith Barrett
Motivating Incentives For The Non-Custodial Parent To Pay
Non-custodial parents have several incentives to pay their child support, some of the incentives include:
Possible felony charges brought against dead-beat parents
Garnishment of wages
Garnishment from sale(s) of property
Garnishment from IRS refunds
Garnishment from lottery winnings
Possibility of 10 years probation
Interest tacked on
If the non-custodial parent hits hard times, they must provide proof of their hardships. For those who have a flippant attitude and do not take this seriously, and do not heed the warnings of the AG's office, Jail time usually gets their attention. Taylor has 105 cases that she's responsible for, of those, 32 cases have motions to revoke probation and arrest warrants issued. The program is retroactive, if there's money that's owed, it will be paid. "Even if the child is well past the age of 18 and gone from home, if there is money owed, the burden remains until it is paid." Director Keith Barrett says. The program, implemented in 2004 for Polk and San Jacinto Counties and Groveton, have been such a success that the Attorney General's office contacted Barrett in 2005, after the first year of implementation, about doing a Power Point presentation to representatives of other counties, "I was a little nervous about giving that presentation in front of all those people" Barrett says, "...but the program has been so successful that I didn't mind the akward feeling".
Probation Director Keith Barrett gave a presentation to other counties at the Attorney General Office's request.
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