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New Virginia program seeks help for child support defaulters

It is both a natural and legal assumption that parents will take responsibility for the upbringing of their children, even when this gets complicated for reasons like a divorce. After a divorce, even the custody of the children can be dictated by a court, which may often give them into the care of one parent with the other parent providing financial assistance. Such child support payments can be a serious liability for that parent, who thus has a legal obligation to fulfill or face punitive action.

As any Alexandria City, Virginia, resident may know, a parent who is unable to make child support payments as scheduled can face jail time. In many cases, the parent may have been unable to find suitable employment and thus is impoverished, which will not improve if that person is imprisoned. This can and often does result in that parent becoming a repeat defaulter and thus being penalized again and again.

Now, however, there may be hope for such parents with a new program aiming to help them become earning members of society. This project, undertaken by child support enforcement workers, also helps connects these people to employers. In the opinion of one administrator, this ensures that the civil contempt law, which incarcerates a person for not paying child support, is not used to punish "dead-broke" persons instead of "deadbeat" ones.

Skipping child support payments cannot be taken casually. However, it is also necessary to look at why the payment could not be made. Virginia residents who know about the local practice of shaming child support defaulters may realize that this practice is about to expire. Given that most defaulters are men from either low-income backgrounds or with felony records, the program's mix of employment assistance and counselling could radically alter society's perception of these men.

Source: The Washington Post, "Locking up parents for not paying child support can be a modern-day 'debtor's prison'", Tina Griego, Sept. 26, 2014

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