Madison County’s ‘Accountability Court’ to get child support paid

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Child Support on Tuesday, February 9, 2016.

Much of what Illinois courts do to get noncustodial parents to pay child support focuses on punishing the parent for falling behind: garnishing wages and even jail time are options. This works to some extent, but many observers note that locking up a parent is not going to help him or her raise the money to get up to date on child support.

Now, authorities in Madison County are trying a different approach starting Feb. 9. They have created a program designed to help noncustodial parents struggling to make their payments catch up by helping them find work.

As the Belleville News-Democrat reports, the new program is called “Accountability Court.” It is the brainchild of a group of social services providers, attorneys and Madison County prosecutors. Ann Callis, former chief judge of the county, said the motivation was to “get these people employed and get them off the docket,” freeing up court time for other matters.

Accountability Court plans to tackle this in two ways: one, by getting unemployed and underemployed parents in touch with government agencies and local colleges to help them improve their job prospects. And two, in the shorter term, helping those parents adjust their child support obligation downward to something they can afford, where appropriate.

Besides helping children get the financial support they deserve, Callis predicted that Accountability Court will save taxpayers money. Many custodial parents who are deprived on child support must turn to public assistance to make up the difference. The fewer families that must do this, the less of a burden on the system.

It will be interesting to see how Accountability Court changes Madison County’s approach to unpaid child support.

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