Archived Story

Pay up or get the boot

Published 9:38pm Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dealing with a child support caseload of about 22,000, Berrien County Friend of the Court officials are looking for new ways to enforce offenders paying off their arrearages.
Friend of the Court Director Tom Watson thinks he may have found a good way to deliver a wake-up call to deadbeat dads owing a significant amount in child support and avoiding court hearings.
Take away their transportation.
Starting in September, Friend of the Court will be identifying child support offenders with outstanding bench warrants and immobilizing their vehicles with a wheel boot. There are about 300 outstanding Friend of the Court bench warrants in Berrien.
“The purpose is not to fill the 2100 building (Empire Facility) parking lot,” Watson said. “The purpose is to get results.”
Marletta Seats, 3rd District commissioner, believes it will.
“It will be a wake-up call,” she said.
Ottawa County has had success with a similar enforcement effort, Watson said.
Eleventh District Commissioner Mac Elliott is also supportive of the idea.
“Sometimes people are biologically adults but still act like children,” he said. “And that is what this is about.”
Statewide child support collections are down 6.8 percent in the past two years, while collections in Berrien County have slipped 5.7 percent in that time frame. The good news, Watson said, is that payments have decreased only 1 percent between June 2010 and now.
Watson said the money collected for child support helps the county in that it reduces the amount of financial assistance the county provides to those mothers.

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