Delinquent Payments May Mean Detention

Child Support Debtors Trackedby Special Unit

October 20, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Robert L. Waybright has made eight trips to court since 1988, but after his Friday trip, he had a new destination -- the county DetentionCenter.

Waybright, 28, owes his former wife $4,862.95 in court-ordered support money for the couple's 4-year-old child.

He is one of almost 3,000 county residents whose support paymentsare tracked by the Child Support Enforcement Unit at the Carroll Department of Social Services.

On June 13, Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold found Waybright in contempt of a court order to pay hisformer wife, Elizabeth Marie Waybright, $100 a week in child support.

The judge ordered him to find a job within 60 days and begin making payments or go to jail.

Waybright's wife received several payments from June 4 to July 8 that were deducted from Waybright's paycheck, testified Theresa Jackson, a support agent assigned to the case.

Jackson said her office was told Waybright quit his job July 8.

Waybright said he left the job because a friend of his was getting him another job that paid more money, but that job fell through.

"It was more money and benefits and stuff. I figured I could finally get this stuff caught up," said Waybright, who was not represented by an attorney in court.

But Arnold was skeptical, especially when Waybright told him he found another job three weeks ago, but that his wages could not be garnished because he was getting paid "under the table" and his salary was not being reported to the government.

"I think it (quitting) might have been a deliberate attempt to impoverish yourself so you wouldn't have to make these payments," said Arnold, adding that he gave Waybright a break in June when he did not send himto jail.

Assistant State's Attorney James Brewer asked Arnold to send Waybright to jail this time because he has repeatedly failed to pay child support.

Arnold sentenced Waybright to 179 days at the Carroll County Detention Center.

The judge told him he can be freedbefore his sentence is up if he pays the $4,862.95 he is behind.

Not all parents who fall behind in their payments end up in jail, said Jamie Wehler, director of the support enforcement unit.

Jail terms often are given when support agents and parents run out of optionsto get money from delinquent parents, but they are not the best solutions, she said.

"The guy's being punished, but the kid still doesn't get the money," Wehler said.

And while Waybright's debt is significant, his account is not the largest handled by the unit.

Wehler said at least 79 Carroll parents owe more than $10,000 in overdue child support.

One man owes $63,000 in alimony and child support and another owes $55,000.

"In all likelihood, they will never be found," said Wehler, adding that some of the cases go back more than 10years.

Michael Joseph Brown, another delinquent parent jailed because of his failure to pay more than $25,000 in support, escaped fromthe Detention Center several weeks ago when he did not return from his work-release job.

In spite of the parents who continue to eludeagents, Wehler said her office collected $3 million this year, or $5.80 for every dollar spent on the unit.

The support agents use a variety of computer searches using Social Security numbers and motor vehicle information to track down delinquent parents.

Once the address of a delinquent parent is found, the unit sends that information to the Carroll State's Attorney's Office for prosecution.

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