Pay up or get locked up; Child support violators could go to jail if they don’t pay

As prefaced in previous stories, Bell County Attorney Neil Ward encourages parents to take care of their children — even if the parents are no longer in a relationship. Many times that means for the absent parent to pay child support. If the absent parent avoids that responsibility, he or she could be placed behind bars.

Ward explained that law enforcement gets involved when it comes to serving the orders or if the judge has ordered their arrest.

“The Bell County Sheriff’s Office serves our summons. If somebody comes in and says that ‘Neil Ward is the father of my child,’ we prepare the paternity complaint and they have to find Neil Ward and serve the papers,” he said using himself as an example of how it works.

Ward said it is not always as easy as it sounds because some people move around a lot or live with friends.

“So, law enforcement is really important because if we don’t get those papers served we can’t get to court. If we can’t get to court, we can’t get an order. If we can’t get an order, what can we do?” he explained by breaking down the importance of law enforcement’s involvement. “So, they help serve the papers. After that they are pretty well out of it.”

Ward explained that the worst case scenario is that the judge issues an order for arrest then law enforcement will go pick them up.

“That’s entered into the e-warrants which every officer can access from his car,” he said. “It used to be if you had the warrant for me and you had it in your car and you were at Red Bird and they’ve stopped me over in Middlesboro, they couldn’t serve it. Now, it’s in everybody’s computer.”

The e-warrant system is used by the Bell County Sheriff’s Office, Kentucky State Police, and the Pineville and Middlesboro Police Departments.

“If there is a warrant for me and they look it up on their computer then they’ve got me, … they would arrest me,” he said.

He said if somebody out there is behind on their child support, come into his office and work with them to get caught up.

“We don’t ever, ever put anybody in jail that’s paying something,” said Ward. “Maybe you got divorced and you were a miner and you were making $80,000, but you were laid off and now you work at the Dollar Tree,” Ward continued to explained. “There’s nothing wrong with working at the Dollar Tree, but we know how much money you probably make.”

He said you need to come in and show them so his office can work with you to adjust your payments.

“We will adjust it based on what you are making,” he continued. “If you are laid off, we will adjust it. So, come in and we will set up some payment that you can live with.”

He said that a little can be paid at a time.

“It may take you forever to pay off that $20,000, but we will give you a chance because it’s a win-win for everybody,” he said. “I always tell my people if you lay $20 on this desk that $20 is not a lot of money, but if you are broke that $20 can pay something on the light bill, cable bill or might could help your daughter get a prom dress at a second hand store. So, like I said, $20 doesn’t sound like very much except if you don’t have $20.”

Ward said it’s important and he always encourages his people to get what they can because it is appreciated.

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