Office of Communications
For more information contact:

Susan Perry
Office of Communications & Legislative Affairs
West Virginia Department of health and Human Resources
Phone: 304-558-3780 Fax: 304-558-4092

For immediate release

Criminal prosecutions successful in collection of child support obligations

The Logan office of the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is reporting successful criminal prosecutions in cases where persons have repeatedly failed to pay their court-ordered child support obligations. In one case, a local individual owed more than $32,000 in child support arrearage and had failed to make a payment in several years. All other collection practices had failed, so a referral was made to the office of the prosecuting attorney for Logan County. After being charged with a felony for failure to pay a support obligation, the person pled guilty. The individual has made a payment on the support obligation monthly without fail since entering the plea.

Bureau offices across West Virginia are reporting success through use of the criminal court system. On an average day in West Virginia, approximately 80 percent of the obligors, persons who are ordered to pay support, owe some amount of arrearages. These range from $1 to over $200,000. Bureau Commissioner Susan Perry says that the vast majority of the persons with arrearages owe less than $5,000. " However, when you look at the 600 cases with the largest arrears, the total arrears owed in those cases is $65 million dollars! She went on to explain that criminal prosecution is generally a "last resort" for the bureau, but is "necessary when people fail to act responsibly."

Ruby Harrison, supervisor in the bureau's office in Logan, has two tips for obligors who wish to stay out of criminal trouble relating to their child support obligations. The first is to pay something regularly on their child support obligation. "If you have an emergency and cannot send in the entire payment, it is important that you make a payment on your case" said Harrison. West Virginia law requires that interest of 10 percent per year be added to unpaid support arrearages. Non-payment can be very expensive. "Any payment is a benefit to the family, and to the person responsible for maintaining the payment," Harrison said.

Harrison's second tip is for an obligor to request a modification of his or her support obligation if circumstances change. Many of the cases reviewed by the bureau involve situations where a person is laid off from a higher paying job and then accepts employment at a lower rate of pay. Child support can be modified if your circumstances change. The obligors may request a modification on their own or they can contact the bureau to request assistance.