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Parental accountability courts may help parents behind on child support in Georgia

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According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia parents who are behind on their child support payments have reason to hope that they'll see their children rather than the inside of a jail cell thanks to a new program started by courts across the state. "New court pushes fathers to make turnaround," by Tammy Joyner, published at

The reason for the hope is the introduction of an innovative program in Georgia called parental accountability court. Thanks to the program, parents behind on child support payments can avoid jail and instead work at chipping away the money they owe while still getting to see their kids.

Parental accountability courts have been cropping up across the state. They are the product of a joint effort by Georgia's Child Support Services department and various local court systems and are designed to offer an alternative to jail. Using resources that exist in the county, the courts address the specific problems facing delinquent parents that prevent them from making regular payments: unemployment, drug use, lack of transportation, etc.

In Georgia, the problem of late payment is massive; a recent report from the Department of Human Services showed that four out of every 10 parents paying child support are delinquent. The parent that's behind on the payments can then wind up in jail for up to three months, costing the taxpayers $1,500 per month. Moreover, when they're released they have the same problem as before, no job and no money with which to pay support. As a result, many constantly circulate between jail and court, costing taxpayers thousands while accomplishing little to help the children.

Of the programs that have been started across the state there appears to be real potential. In Hall County, the court's first year of operation saw child support payments from non-custodial parents grow by $45,000. Simultaneously, the cost of incarcerating non-paying parents fell by $178,000 as the program helped people find work.

Parental accountability courts attempt to address the real problem behind delinquent payments, that many people are in need of jobs to pay the money they owe. Throwing them in jail when they don't pay does little to solve the problem and that's what Georgia appears to have recognized.

By Connor Alexander, Law Clerk, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC


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