Jail won’t keep you from paying child support

Published 1:58 pm Tuesday, October 29, 2019

If you think going to jail will keep you from paying child support, you’ve got that wrong.

According to Bell County Attorney Neil Ward, when asked if people avoid paying their child support by staying in jail, he answered not usually.

“To be frank about it, we don’t want anybody in jail. We want them paying something,” he said. “There’s not that many that just sits there and don’t do anything.”

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He explained that they will do something to adjust the payment.

“We will adjust it to where they can get out and pay something,” Ward said. “For example, if they are supposed to pay $200 a month and they haven’t worked in three or four years, we will say ‘what if you were to pay $50 a month.’”

He said once they are out they’ll pay for about six months or so and then they’ll quit paying again.

“Then it takes another six months to find them and then we will put them back in jail,” he explained of those attempting to avoid paying their child support. “We work all the time, especially where somebody owes up to $10,000 and the judge says ‘Put them back in jail or pay this’, and we know they can’t pay their $10,000.”

When asked how do people avoid their payments he explains that if a person just skips out that it makes it hard.

“It’s hard to find them,” he said. “We’ve got a parent locator that helps us look for them out of Frankfort digitally, and if we can’t find them we can’t enforce it. Even in this digital age people can disappear.”

He explained that another way is that people work for cash.

“That’s hard to collect from people,” he said of those working for cash. “We try to once we get an order and find out where someone is working.”

According to Ward, his office gets reports every month from the state showing new hires and any company in Kentucky that hires somebody, their name and social security will bump up and they can check them.

“We check them every month. Since we are on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, it makes it a little harder for us because a lot of people work in Tennessee,” he explained. “We can send a request to employers in Tennessee, LMU being one and England’s being another, and they have to let us know if that person is working there.”

Ward explained that it’s through the treaty between the states, and they have had a few of the employers say that they can’t disclose that information.

“We’ll have to send them the law that says yes you can disclose it,” he continued. “So if they are working there, we send a garnishment. The good thing about a garnishment now is that years ago, we used to have to send a garnishment every pay period.”

He said with the law changing where if you work somewhere, the wages can be garnished until you leave that employer.

“We send one garnishment, and it’s good for 10 years if you stay there,” he said of how the process works. “We try to garnish their paycheck. That’s the very best thing. If they are working for cash, that’s the harder one and a lot of times we just keep hounding them and hounding them, sending them notices, saying that we are going to take you to court.”

Ward said the judge might put them in jail if they don’t pay. He said that a lot of people might pay, but it’s sporadic.

“They only pay when we take them to court but at least they pay,” he explained. “Then there’s people who are never going to pay, never have paid, and that’s really frustrating but they don’t have anything.”

Ward said his office doesn’t have every child support case in Bell County because there are several who pay through divorces and voluntarily.

“Most people pay their support, but those avoiding support because they don’t have a job, (don’t) have a car, don’t have a house, don’t have anything, there’s people that live that way,” he said. “But, if they do have something and we get a judgement saying that they owe $10,000 to so-in-so in child support. We can file a lien against their house, we can file a garnishment, or we can file a lien against their car, but most of the time if they aren’t paying their child support they don’t have anything and they don’t care.”

If you need assistance with child support, you can visit Neil Ward’s office located at 101 Courthouse Square in Pineville. Their office hours at 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Their phone number is 606-337-2519 or you can visit their website at www.bellcoatty.com.