If you go
What: Child Support Amnesty Week
When: Jan. 23-27, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: 1211 E. Main St.
Any parents who are behind on child support can take advantage of a week-long county program later this month — without fear of arrest.
Hamilton County Juvenile Court's Child Support Division is offering an "amnesty week" from Jan. 23-27 that aims to get outstanding warrants dismissed by creating a repayment plan. Parents will also have access to potential employers and local nonprofits, and they can leave without being taken into custody.
"First and foremost, this helps the kids," said attorney Ryan Hanzelik, whose main practice is family law. "As far as the parents, they're getting that warrant recalled, so they don't have to worry if someone is going to come and arrest them at the job. Or, if I get a speeding ticket, for instance, will I get taken to jail with my kids with me?"
Child Support Magistrate Kathy Clark said she participated in a similar program about 11 years ago. "From a success point of view, we weren't sure how many outstanding warrants we had then," she said Friday.
By monitoring her own 170-person court docket at the time, Clark was able to deduce that 78 percent of the people who came in that week were making payments up to a year later.
Whenever a parent makes a payment in a child support case, it goes to the child's custodian, attorneys said. If they refuse to pay, authorities can put out an attachment, which is essentially a warrant, for their arrest. That attachment includes a "purge" amount, which is the money a parent would pay to get out of jail. And that purge amount goes to the child's custodial parent.
There are just more than 1,200 outstanding warrants for child support in Hamilton County, some of them years old, Clark said. Local authorities compiled that number back in November, she said.
That figure is explainable. Parents who are behind in payments are sometimes sent to jail after a routine hearing, Hanzelik said.
"The judges will ask them, 'Do you smoke cigarettes? Well, how much do you pay per pack? Where'd you get those shoes, where'd you get those pants?'" he said. "So [parents] sometimes avoid that process, and it's a very intimidating process."
Amnesty week will change the way both parties come to the table, said Hanzelik, who predicted that "not having to worry about [going to jail] will encourage people to go in, speak freely about their situation, and try to be honest."
For more information call 423-209-5111.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.