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STRIDIRON: DEADBEAT PARENTS TO FACE SANCTIONS

Aug. 11, 2002 – A recent V.I. Justice Department computer analysis of its child support system shows close to $3 million in delinquent payments owed by non-custodial parents, Attorney General Iver Stridiron says, and the Division of Paternity and Child Support is now prepared to do something about it.
Starting in September, he said, any father or mother who owes more than $2,500 in delinquent child support could lose his or her driver's license, business or recreational license or tax refund. And, in some cases, bank accounts and other private property may be seized.
Stridiron says a new computer system in the Child Support Division is making the sanctions, geared toward improving collections, possible. "The system is now in place," he said. "The federal government has rules and regulations for collection efforts; so, in order for us to start collecting … we are taking these steps. To some they may seem like Draconian measures, but we are collecting money for children."
Computer tracking of child-support payments has helped state governments identify close to a billion dollars in delinquent payments, Stridiron said. The local collection record is good, he said, because most non-custodial parents work for the V.I. government or for large private companies such as hotels.
Between $70,000 and $100,000 in child support deductions flows into the Division of Paternity and Child Support every pay period from parents living in the territory, he said.
The deadbeat parents are largely living outside of the territory, and especially on the U.S. mainland, Stridiron said. Some states and territories have cooperative arrangements, thereby improving their collection rates, he noted.
Locally, the attorney general said, the challenge is to collect money from self-employed and unemployed parents. Once the new sanctions take effect, he expects so see some of those parents start catching up on their delinquent payments. He said an option will be to go to the child support office to set up a payment schedule.
"The computer system is going through final certification by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Once that happens, enforcement actions will take place immediately," he said.
Stridiron says he expects there will be a few high-profile seizures of boats, cars and other property in the first weeks after the new collection system takes effect, or a perhaps a few well-known businesses will lose their licenses. After that, he said, he expects the compliance rate to increase dramatically.

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