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Deadbeat parents owe millions

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BATON ROUGE - When parents in Louisiana don't pay child support, taxpayers are left footing the bill in a lot of ways.

Sometimes, it is an increased need for food and housing assistance.  Other times, it's even the price of locking up those deadbeat parents if they're arrested.

The Family Court in East Baton Rouge is constantly fighting that battle and slowly trying to change the tide to bring in significantly more child support payments per month.

Cecil Zachary owes almost $140,000 to his ex-wife and their two children. A car accident and lost job left him living at his grandparents' house in Denham Springs.

"It's tough," Zachary said. "Life ain't fair, doesn't deal everybody the same hand. Just got to deal with it. I need to get off my butt and take care of business."

The business of uncollected debt is staggering. For September alone, Louisiana parents owed more than $31 million in unpaid child support. It's backed Chief Family Court Judge Pamela Baker into a corner.

"The state is paying for the DA's office to continuously bring these people into court for child support appearances," Baker said. "If I sentence them to time, the state is paying to house them and feed them three meals a day."

Jail time is not out of the question. Ricky Hamilton hadn't paid child support since February, and his estranged wife Melissa did high-fives after a judge put her husband behind bars.

"I'm very satisfied with the outcome," said Melissa Hamilton. "Because he gets income every month and I have two children that are struggling to say the least."

Every day in court judges hear typical stories; deadbeats have no jobs, the state can pull their driver's license, and spouses don't get a check.

Chief Judge Baker gives the entire system an "F," for the inability to resolve the collection issue. The catch-22 has no apparent ending in sight.

"Bottom line is we want to get some money in the hands of the moms," Baker said. "And if you set an amount that they can pay, then they'll pay it. If you set an amount that's higher than what they can pay, they're not going to pay what they can afford. They're going to pay nothing."

Judge Baker said that her office collected about half of the child support payments recently. That's higher than before, but still something she says needs improvement.

To see other deadbeat parents and how much they owe, visit the DCFS Delinquent Payors website.

 

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