• 70°

Ward encourages parents to put their kids first

Child support isn’t just based on the person or what they do for a living, Bell County Attorney Neil Ward explains that child support is all based on guidelines.

“People always want to complain and say, ‘Oh, it’s too much money’ or the mom will say ‘it’s too little’ and it’s usually both,” Ward said. “It’s based on a formula, and I don’t know the academics behind it so it will say if you make this much money and you’ve got three children, here is what you’re supposed to pay.”

He said that the guidelines also take into account rent or a car payment but the guidelines are based on a percentage.

“It’s about 25% and it’s what they have worked out. It is factored in that if you make $2,000 a month, the average person is going to have this much expense and they factor in that it is for the child,” he said. “The chart is based on if you make ‘x-amount’ of dollars in today’s economy what they’ve got to live on, and I think the chart is about 25% of your net and that amount is for your child.”

Ward said he will have people come into his office and have a $50,000 truck sitting in the parking lot and the person will complain about paying $200 in child support.

“I’ll ask them how much their truck payment is and they’ll say $600 and then I’ll say, ‘Is your truck more important than your child,’” he said. “It doesn’t dawn on them that yes it’s tough but until you get those kids raised you are going to have to make some sacrifices and you are the one who walked away.”

He said that he has even seen a judge ask someone that hasn’t paid their child support in a year and they owe $5,000, and the judge will ask how much the gold chain is around their neck.

“Why don’t you sell that gold chain or they come in smoking cigarettes, well, how much does it cost you to smoke a week or a month,” he explained. “We are not asking you to contribute it to the government, we are asking you to support your child.”

He said that children turn 18 really quick but did say that it is getting better.

“I’ve had lawyers tell me, Neil before you all started working this program a person just thought they could go to Arjay and have a family, then move to Leslie County and have another family,” he said. “If you have a child, we are going to run you all over the United States. So, it’s gotten better and the attitudes have gotten better.”

Ward explained that although people have called him some awful names, he has never had someone say that they should not support their children.

“They will come up with a hundred different excuses, but they will never look you in the eye and say that ‘no, I shouldn’t support my children’ and that is a better attitude,” he said.

Ward explained there are several ways that people can be helped through his office.

“They don’t have to be receiving Kentucky Assistance, but if they are that’s good because if they are paying out ‘x-amount’ of dollars to this woman and then we collect this much from the ex-husband, all that money goes back into the fund,” he said. “It all gets paid back out. It’s one of two programs that actually makes money for the Kentucky government.”

He said if you are in need of their assistance, you can visit their office in Pineville or you can download the form online.

“You can come into our office, and they’ll give you an application,” he said. “You’ll fill that out and turn that back in to us and we actually have a website www.bellcoatty.com and you can actually download the forms.”

He said you can come in personally or you can download it from the website and once you have filled that out, it will be processed.

“When we process the application most of the time there is some paperwork you’ve got to bring,” he explained. “If you’re divorced, we will need your divorce papers to see what the child support is supposed to be because that is the case. We won’t create a new case. We will go into your divorce and establish it.”

Ward explained that if it is a paternity case, there will be more paperwork that will be needed.

“If it’s a paternity case and you need to name the father, we will need names and addresses and all that,” he continued to talk of the paperwork involved. “Sometimes you have women that will say well, it could be one of four. That is not unusual. We will start at the top, and we will DNA test until we find the right one.”

He said that all paternity cases are confidential and no information is released.

“Even if we don’t ever collect very much from that father, at least that child now has a legal father. We’ve had guys in car wrecks or they get killed on the job, and because we have established paternity that child can draw workers comp benefits or Social Security benefits,” he continued to say about the paternity testing. “I think it’s good for the child to have a legal father, and it’s good for that child to say, ‘yeah, I have a dad.’”

Later this week, Ward will explain what happens when someone doesn’t pay their child support, what the consequences of not paying are and how those who avoid paying child support eventually get put behind bars. He will also explain to someone who is behind on their child support payments how they can get caught up.