A central Indiana prosecutor is stepping up efforts to track down parents who are behind on their child support.
Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said the number of parents who owe money has fallen to about 33 percent as police track down scofflaws with pending warrants, arrest them and require them to start making payments.
Failure to pay child support is a Class D felony and jumps to a Class C felony if the amount owed tops $10,000, said child support division deputy prosecutor Lori Prince.
On average in Johnson County, more than $18.2 million is owed to parents raising children. The overdue balance per parent is more than $4,500, Prince told the Daily Journal .
Cooper hired child support investigator Troy DeHart this year to help track down those in arrears. The former sheriff's deputy and county commissioner has helped police find and arrest 33 people since April, and the money from bonds they pay to get out of jail goes directly to families that are owed child support.
DeHart said when he gets a tip or a lead, he can contact other police in the area and get their help. For example, he has gone to Indianapolis and teamed up with city police to visit a home where one father might have moved.
"These guys just kind of disappear like a vapor. One person can take me 40 to 50 man-hours," DeHart said.
DeHart said it's possible for someone who has moved out of the area to avoid police -- and payments -- for years.
But once a deadbeat parent is arrested, he or she is taken to jail and is given a cash bond, which means they have to pay the full amount to get out. That bond payment, typically $3,000 for a nonsupport charge, goes directly to the parent with the child who is owed money.
"It is amazing how some of these folks who can't pay and haven't been paying suddenly come up with thousands of dollars of bond money," Cooper said.
The prosecutor's office also is conducting more checkup hearings with parents to make sure they are paying on time and filing more civil warrants and felony charges, Prince said.
The efforts have reduced the number of people not paying. At the end of June, the prosecutor's office had collected about $3.6 million in back child support.
Brittany Patrick said getting money from the father of her 3-year-old daughter, Kinley, means reducing her reliance on credit cards to make ends meet. Her daughter's father owed more than $6,000 by the time he was arrested earlier this year.
"I haven't been able to buy my necessities in life. My daughter, that's who I have to make sure has things. It would have been nice to pay as he was supposed to, to maybe go out and get myself a new eyeliner or new pair of shoes," she said.