Not paying child support could cost taxpayers

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- We all know - working as a single parent is hard enough. Not receiving child support is even harder. KEPR dug through the numbers of cases in contempt.

Meet "Katie." A single parent working to make ends meet.

"Okay - we're going to make it work, we can be a family and it did not turn out that way," said single parent "Katie."

The father of her toddler didn't pay child support the first year. It's made an unexpected road even tougher.

"I have to do the diapers, the paying for everything," "Katie."

The father now pays up - while "Katie" searches for another job.

A Benton County official estimated up to ten-percent of local parents don't pay the child support they owe.
We pulled the numbers and found more than 600 non-payers in Benton County were in contempt of court as of January this year. That number is up from two years prior.

The reason it's significant is because if these people don't pay -- they go to jail. And you pay to house them there. Numbers have dropped almost 20-percent in Franklin County. Case workers say more people could be paying up -- or could be out of the country -- and out of the hands of law enforcement. The Benton County Prosecutor's Office attributes the problem to the economy.

Here's something else I learned -- if you fail to pay child support for six months, courts can suspend licenses. That doesn't just include your driver's. You business license, hunting and fishing license are also up for grabs. Beyond that, failure to pay up can lead to punishment for civil contempt. Judges can impose 30 days with a purge condition. That means - you can avoid serving the jail sentence with a certain payment.

Counties and courts cracking down -- to encourage responsibility -- and take the added burden off taxpayers. All while "Katie" hopes for a better life for her son.

"I just want him to be good," added "Katie."

The child support fee is also considered a legal financial obligation. Taxpayers in Franklin County paid more than half-a-million dollars to lock up non-payers of all LFO's last year alone.