Billion dollar burden: deadbeat parents duck child support
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Support Services division is celebrating its best year ever. New enforcement efforts just turned two years old and DHS collect a record $350 million from non-custodial parents. The new law allowed for the creation of the child support most wanted list.
The list includes the names and faces of parents who have skipped out on court ordered payments. "Ten-percent of non-custodial parents owe half of all child support in our state," said Jeff Wagner a spokesman for Child Support Services.
"The sad fact is more than $2 billion in child support has gone uncollected in Oklahoma," Wagner told Fox 25. DHS says when parents do not pay families are often forced to rely on taxpayer funded services like food stamps or state provided health insurance to get by.
The state child support website lists the man with the biggest debt as Willard Burnett. According to DHS he owes $156,211.97 in unpaid child support. We attempted to locate him, but failed.
It is a similar story when we try to track down other child support offenders. We used extensive background check programs to find current addresses for many of the men and women on the list, but all were no shows during our multiple visits to their homes. DHS says it's a problem they run into often and if they cannot find a person or make contact with them, they cannot serve them court paperwork.
That doesn't mean the case goes away. "A case will stay open until collected or until there is proof there isn't any money to be collected either the estate is closed or the person is passed away," Wagner said.
Take for example, Jennifer Mattias. She was on the state's deadbeat parent list for owing more than $15,000 in child support. She routinely failed to show up for court and had multiple warrants issued for her arrest. She finally ran out of second chances and is now serving a four-year prison sentence.
DHS says the primary goal is to get parents to pay, not put them in prison. But sometimes the cases do reach a level where criminal charges are filed. "They must owe at least $5,000 in unpaid child support," Wagner said, "We must also be able to demonstrate that there is a willingness to not pay child support."