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Illinois and child support: When is 58 percent good enough? p3

This is a continuation of our discussion about the problems of collecting child support payments in Illinois. The state has a terrible reputation -- "one of the worst," according to one attorney -- but there are pockets of progress. Lake County is among them.

In our last post, we talked about a judge who knew that sending a noncustodial parent to jail for nonpayment of child support ran counter to common sense: If he's in jail, he can't pay. If he has a record, he will have a harder time getting a job or a higher-wage job, so, again, he won't be able to pay.

The state is interested in making sure the money makes it to the children, so the court is reluctant to send nonpaying parents to jail or to revoke their driver's licenses. It is not unusual for a hearing to end with a father -- again, most noncustodial parents are men -- making a payment to the mother and a promise to make another. The promise is, however, written on the wind.

The judge in Lake County has helped to develop alternatives to incarceration: work release and electronic monitoring. These programs are less expensive for the state and do not take the nonpaying parent off the employment rolls. These parents may keep their jobs, or, if they are unemployed, the state will assign them to a temp agency or find them some other steady work. With the source of income secured, the state can then enforce the court order.

Those, however, tend to be parents that remain in Lake County. If a noncustodial parent leaves the court's jurisdiction -- usually the county or the state -- the orders are harder, if not impossible, to enforce. We'll get into that more in our next post.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Child support challenges courts in Illinois," Lisa Black, Oct. 25, 2013

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