A North Laurel woman has avoided a 90-day prison term for failing to make child-support payments by coming up with more than $11,000 in cash for her two daughters hours before she was to report to the county jail.
Virginia Evans went to the Howard Bureau of Support Enforcement with $11,150 at 4:25 p.m. Friday about 2 1/2 hours before she was to report to the county's Detention Center.
Ms. Evans, who runs a lawn-care business with her husband, was given the sentence after she was found in contempt of a Howard Circuit Court order at a hearing Friday for not making any support payments in more than two years. Her daughters live with their father in Delaware.
"I hope a case like this sends a message: in Howard County, you've got to meet your child-support obligations," said Assistant State's Attorney Martin McNamera 3rd, who specializes in child-support cases.
Ms. Evans, 37, declined to comment on the case. Her current husband, Duane Evans, said they borrowed the money from a friend to pay the child-support arrearages.
Mr. Evans said he and his wife lost their jobs and started their own business that has been slow to make money, so Ms. Evans fell behind in her payments.
Ms. Evans, who represented herself at last week's hearing, hoped that the court would give her more time to make her payments, her husband said.
Mr. Evans criticized the courts for being so rigid in child-support cases that they fail to consider financial problems that many people experience.
"The child-support laws in America have overlooked the everyday hardships of the typical person," Mr. Evans said. "I think these courts are overly brutal."
He said his wife probably will find a full-time job so she can keep up with her payments until their business, called Evans Environmental, begins making more money.
The Evans case is one of about 1,000 child-support cases handled in county courts each year.
Mr. McNamera said he has seen some delinquent parents -- with mothers accounting for about 3 percent of them -- owe as much as $30,000 in support and receive sentences of up to six months in jail.
The prosecutor noted that the threat of jail time in child-support cases is often a last resort, used only when other alternatives such as garnishing a delinquent parent's salary have failed.
"But if that's what it takes . . . then do it," Mr. McNamera said.
Margaret Sollenberger, executive director of the state Child Support Enforcement Administration, said the threat of prison sentences has long been used to collect child support. She noted that delinquent parents often pay the child support before their sentence is to begin, as in the Evans case.
Howard Circuit Court records reveal a tug-of-war between Ms. Evans and her former husband over child-support payments for their two daughters, ages 10 and 14, since their divorce in January 1989.
Ms. Evans' former husband, Gene Jones Jr. of Dover, Del., was granted permanent custody of the girls as part of the divorce. Ms. Evans was granted visitation with the girls on weekends, holidays and summer vacations, records say.
Ms. Evans was initially ordered to pay $50 a month in child support, but Mr. Jones sought an increase in support despite her objections, records say. Judge James Dudley increased the support payments to $400 a month in January 1991.
But after Ms. Evans was laid off from her job as a secretary at a Jessup construction company in June 1991, she requested a reduction of her payments. By January 1992, Ms. Evans was $750 behind in her support payments, records say.
Ms. Evans and Mr. Jones reached an agreement in which she would resume support payments and he would drop his demand for back payments, records say. The agreement was reached after Ms. Evans got another job.
But in June 1993, Ms. Evans sought another reduction of support payments when she again lost her job, records say. She claimed in court papers that she faced more than $13,000 in debts, more than $1,600 in monthly expenses and no income.
Meanwhile, the Howard state's attorney's office filed a request for the court to find Ms. Evans in contempt and order her to pay the arrearages. That request brought Ms. Evans back into court last week.
At the hearing, Judge Dudley sentenced Ms. Evans to jail but permitted her to have work release during the term. He later quashed the sentence after Ms. Evans paid her child-support support.
Mr. McNamera, the prosecutor, said he believes Ms. Evans has learned her lesson, albeit the hard way.
"I'm sure Ms. Evans does not want to appear before Judge Dudley again and payments will be made," he said.