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Friday, February 12, 2010

Nevada Number 1 in Deadbeat Parents

Nevada ranks last in the nation for collecting child support, and now the economy is making it tough for parents, even ones who want to pay, to afford it.

The Clark County District Attorney's Office handles child support enforcement. It already knows there is much room for improvement when it comes to collecting child support, but officials also recognize something is better then nothing.

"They need to realize that a child's needs don't change just because a non-custodial parent isn't responsible or can't hold down a job. I can't tell my son to stop eating or to stop growing," said parent Tammy Wright.

Wright says her ex-husband owes her $12,000 in back child support and has gone up to two years without making a single payment, "We need to have stricter enforcement of deadbeat parents. Someone would come knocking on my door if I didn't feed or clothe my son. I would face consequences, so why doesn't the non-custodial parents?"

Clark County Deputy District Attorney Teresa Lowry agrees, more could and needs to be done to improve Nevada's child support enforcement record. With more than 87,000 cases in Clark County alone, the system is severely overloaded.

"Our case managers juggle anywhere from 600 to 1,000 cases a piece," said Lowry.

But rather than make excuses, Lowry says she'd rather focus on positive solutions -- both punitive and pro-active. Especially given the impact our economic recession is having on those parents who want to comply with their court orders, "They're calling and saying, ‘I've lost my job and I want to get another one but can we modify my order to reflect my circumstances right not so that I don't fall into arrears?'"

And that's one possible solution Lowry says her staff is exploring right now, "If the order is so unrealistic, people might give up and pay nothing at all."

And too many non-custodial parents in Nevada are already paying nothing at all. Current child support enforcement efforts include suspending driver's licenses, garnishing wages and income tax refunds, and jail.

But the DA's Office believes its pro-active programs like drug court and employment assistance are more effective in the long run than locking a parent up.

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