Parents in Pike County who have been ordered by the court to pay child support and are behind in payments or haven’t paid at all, could find themselves in court soon.
Pike County Attorney Kevin Keene earlier this year announced the “Pay or Stay” program to address the issue of non-payment of child support.
However, due to COVID-19 restrictions on civil court matters, the cases were delayed.
The restrictions have now been lifted and cases began being heard June 1.
“Under the governor’s prior orders, the court couldn’t use civil contempt to enforce child support obligations,” Keene said. “We had 72 total on the docket, 35 in the morning session and 35 in the afternoon session with 2 others and I’m pleased to say we had 46 out of the 72 either paying or had made arrangements to pay.
“Now the flip side of that is we had 26 that didn’t show and bench warrants have been issued for those and they will be visited soon by a deputy sheriff,” Keene said.
The goal, he said, is not to incarcerate people but to collect the outstanding payments.
“The goal of this pay or stay program has never been to incarcerate anybody,” Keene explained. “The program works pretty well as a ticker system for both us and the individuals that are paying child support.
“We can review cases to see how these people are paying and on the positive side, on the 46 that came in, they were either already paying or had made arrangements to pay,” Keene said. “Those folks were set up for a review depending on how long they’ve been paying and how steady the payments were.”
Keene said the reviews can be set for six weeks up to six months.
According to Keene, people need to either pay or at least set up a payment plan.
“Folks can contact my office to discuss setting up a plan,” Keene said. “The way the child support system is set up, it’s really fair because it’s income based, so if someone loses their job or has just gotten a job or has just been recalled to their old job because of COVID-19, we can work with them.”
Keene said if individuals find themselves in a situation like this they can call his office.
“If they need to be refigured due to a change in circumstances, they can come to my office and ask us to ask for an adjustment or they can file a motion themselves through personal counsel,” Keene said. “If someone is disabled for example, we cannot incarcerate someone who is on SSI, there are safeguards built into this system.
“What I’m trying to do is to make sure we are doing everything we can to collect child support to make sure the children and the custodial parent who are trying to raise these children have the support and help they need,” Keene explained.
Keen said two individuals that showed up to court June 1 had not made payments but yet they showed up.
“They explained themselves and one actually had a job interview set up and the other actually had just started working and hadn’t got his first paycheck yet,” Keene said. “So naturally we didn’t set a contempt order, we set them up for a review in six weeks and if they have made arrangements or started paying, we’re going to work with them.”
Keene said the main thing is his office will work with anyone who wants to work with them.
“I feel that the first day of the pay or stay program was a success with 46 out of 72 paying now and these were all accounts that were identified as not paying or not paying consistently,” Keene said. “We going to have another docket in a week or two and we’re hoping that as this goes we’ll see this docket get lower.”
Keene said that in the first docket, nobody was forced to stay.
“The folks who showed up either had paid or made arrangements to begin payments and the folks who didn’t show up for court hadn’t,” Keene said. “That’s why bench warrants have been issued.”
Keene said anyone who needs more information or wants to set up a payment plan can contact his office at. (606) 432-6250.