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Louisiana can assess legal punishment for unpaid support

Parents who choose not to pay child support in Louisiana may be held accountable by the legal system. According to a recent report detailing the amount of support owed in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, a misdemeanor charge may be filed against a parent who is being accused of dodging child support for the first time. The punishment for a first misdemeanor offense in this regard is either a $500 fine, a sentence of less than six months or both.

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) reported that nearly 2,000 parents are considered delinquent in Ouachita Parish. By definition, a delinquent parent is someone that has not fulfilled her or his obligation to pay child support for at least six months. DCFS lists these delinquent parents on its website, allowing the public to see who has not been making good on their court-ordered obligations.

About 600 of the 2,000 delinquent parents owe more than $10,000. Around 110 owe more than $25,000. More than 20 owe more than $50,000 and one man owes more than $157,000. According to the District Attorney's Office, there are 10,000 active child support cases with another 4,000 pending. The District Attorney's Office also reported that it collected more than $17 million in back child support last year.

Since 2008, it has been considered unlawful to intentionally avoid paying child support. Besides the initial misdemeanor offense, there is also a penalty for those that fail to pay more than $15,000. The amount has to be owed for more than two years. Once it is, the legal system can assess a fine of $2,500 as well as a prison sentence of less than two years.

For many delinquent parents, it is not a matter of intentionally allowing the support to go unpaid. Some have fallen on hard financial times and do not know how to address the situation. Seeking legal advice in this situation could be very beneficial and may even result in a modification in child support.

Source: The Advertiser, "2,000 child support evaders live in Monroe area," March 12, 2013

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