Officials unveil amnesty for child support scofflaws
The more than 200 child support dodgers for whom there are active arrest warrants in Montgomery County can avoid being pulled from their homes in handcuffs by taking advantage of a weeklong amnesty program.
Beginning Monday, Aug. 27, under a one-time amnesty program offered by county domestic relations and sheriff’s officials, child support delinquents can resolve their outstanding bench warrants and establish payment arrangements without the fear of being arrested or forced to go before a judge and possibly jailed.
Parents who owe back child support can have their warrants vacated by turning themselves in at the Domestic Relations Office, 425 Swede Street, Norristown, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily during the amnesty period between Aug. 27 and Aug. 31.
Officials said currently there are 230 outstanding arrest warrants for child support delinquents in the county. Officials said the total amount of back child support owed by the 230 scofflaws is $3 million.
“The hope is that we give them the opportunity to make good on this obligation, this court-ordered obligation, and hopefully reunify with their children and provide that very important financial as well as emotional support,” Gary Kline, director of domestic relations, said at a news conference on Aug. 23.
“It’s only offered to those individuals who turn themselves in in-person and work with us. When they do that, we’ll not have them arrested…but we would like to get them and help them get back on track, because the important thing is sustainable financial support for the children,” added Kline.
Letters went out on Aug. 21 to the 230 delinquent parents instructing them to report to the domestic relations office or face a range of consequences.
“We strongly encourage parents to take advantage of this program to help their kids and get on with their lives,” said Rebecca Colantuno, compliance manager for the domestic relations office.
The amnesty program is taking place during what is known as Child Support Awareness Month.
“We are absolutely committed to children receiving justice and that justice shall take place in the form of child support and vigorous enforcement of the laws after this amnesty period is over,” county Sheriff Sean P. Kilkenny said.
“We encourage all the people that are not keeping up their obligations for child support to use this opportunity to partner with the county and come clean, turn yourself in, not fear any arrest and come forward with your obligations. Even if you can’t pay every dime that you owe, come work with us so we can begin helping you and begin helping you help your children,” Kilkenny added.
Officials warned that after the weeklong amnesty period expires an “intensive apprehension effort” will take place.
The sheriff’s warrants division, several times a year, conducts overnight sweeps to take child support scofflaws into custody. The offenders are then taken before a county judge for a hearing to answer to the allegations.
“We urge you to please turn yourselves in during the amnesty period or the week after we will be going after and apprehending all of those who fail to abide by the notice and fail to turn themselves in,” warned Sgt. Mark Huzzard of the sheriff’s department.
According to the sheriff’s office, failure to comply with a child support order is punishable of up to six months in jail. Failure to make timely child support payments may place in jeopardy any professional occupational licenses a person holds, officials added.
Anyone who knows the whereabouts of someone wanted on a bench warrant for failing to pay child support is encouraged to call the office’s tip-line at 610278-3340 or tipsters can anonymously send a tip to the office through the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office website at www.montcopa.org/sheriff
Tips can also be submitted by posting a message on the department’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Residents may also submit tips through the MontcoPASheriff mobile phone app which is available in iTunes and GooglePlay stores.