Kokomo Tribune on March 31, 2016 by Staff Report
The first participants in Howard County’s Family Support Court successfully completed the program this week, effectively dismissing criminal charges against them for non-support of dependents.
Family Support Court reviews cases where a parent faces a felony charge for failing to pay at least $10,000 in owed child support. Rather than proceed with the criminal charges, the state and defense counsel can agree to send the case to Family Support Court, which will review the case more frequently and help the defendant find employment and comply with his or her child support obligation for at least six consecutive months. Successfully completing the program results in the criminal charges being dismissed.
Howard County Circuit Court Referee Erik May created the program, with collaboration from Howard County Circuit Judge Lynn Murray, Howard Superior Court 2 Judge Brant Parry, the Howard County title IV-D office, the Howard County public defender’s office and Howard County adult probation.
May presides over paternity court and also oversees the collection of child support. He cited various reasons people fall behind on paying child support, noting that filing criminal charges in certain cases creates a burden on the criminal justice system.
“In the more difficult cases, you get obligors who will go weeks without paying only to make a payment immediately before court so as to avoid sanctions and give the appearance of compliance,” May said in a press release. “In other cases, you have obligors who are faced with real obstacles that prevent them from finding employment due to lack of education, felony record, access to mental health services or just not knowing where to look and how to apply for jobs. At the same time, the constant criticism of paternity court is that, in many instances, you have fathers ordered to pay child support who have no relationship with their kids. This criticism is understandable in that these parents can feel detached, lacking the necessary emotional investment that is sometimes requisite to the financial investment. No one wins in those situations, least of all the child.”