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Texas turns up the heat on deadbeat parents

The hunt for parents behind on their child support payments continues unabated, and this month the hammer fell on Travis County delinquents. Constables and agents from the Attorney General's office are fanning out in search of hundreds of non-custodial parents who have missed court dates or are behind on their obligations. Officials say billions of dollars in back payments are outstanding, a terrible burden for custodial parents trying to feed the children and keep a roof over their heads in this tough economy.

For debtors who want to avoid the handcuffs and a patrol car ride to jail the answer is simple - contact the courts and at least start working on a resolution. If the courts know a delinquent parent is making an effort, the arrest and booking process might be avoided. A.G. Greg Abbott's office reports that $3.5 billion in overdue payments were recovered in 2011, out of an estimated $13 billion outstanding. Delinquent payments are an especially acute problem for single mothers. New federal data shows that 41 percent of single mothers in Texas live below the poverty line. State officials want to get deadbeats back to work so they can pay off their debt instead of costing taxpayers more money while they linger in jail.

State child support teams have been relentless in their pursuit of deadbeat parents. In May, the state's most-wanted delinquent dad was caught by Jefferson County sheriff's deputies. The man owed more than $72,000 in support payments for his two children. That same month 12 North Texas counties were searched as part of Operation Lone Star Support. Officials say it doesn't matter if the amount owed is just a few hundred dollars or many thousands. Travis County law enforcement officials say they have already rounded up a significant number of suspects and they will continue knocking on doors and pulling motorists over for the rest of the month.

Locking up a deadbeat parent may be temporarily satisfying but it doesn't solve the overdue payments problem. Once caught, the court can determine if there is a job with wages that can be garnished, or property or assets that can be sold. Support obligations don't go away so a waiting-them-out strategy won't work. The wise advice for those who owe is, be proactive. Otherwise, that knock on the door may not be the pizza delivery guy.

Source: KXAN.com, "Child support enforcement stepping up," Casey James, Sep. 17, 2012

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