County cracks down on ‘deadbeat’ dads
In eight years Raphael Miranda paid only $572 in child support for his two children.
He made empty promises. He moved from job to job to avoid attempts to garnish his wages. He claimed poverty while still being able to pay his rent and utilities. El Dorado County Chief Assistant District Attorney Sean O’Brien said Miranda is just one of a growing number of “deadbeat” parents.
“The scope of the problem is growing as more and more people are not supporting their children,” O’Brien said. “With the welfare changes that are taking more people off aid, the collection of child support becomes even more important.”
Miranda was sentenced Friday to 12 months in the El Dorado County Jail for criminal contempt and failure to pay child support. He owed approximately $40,000 in back payments and interest, prosecutors said.
“Miranda continually promised to pay,” said Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe. “About a week before his sentencing, he promised to bring a check for $40,000. He didn’t produce. He didn’t show up.”
The El Dorado County District Attorney’s office prosecuted Miranda on behalf of Washington state, where his 16 and 17-year-old children and their mother live.
O’Brien said the family support office is taking an aggressive approach to curb problem cases like Miranda.
“We are establishing a protocol for the case workers to identify and pull cases of chronic offenders for aggressive criminal prosecution,” he said. “On some of these cases the threat of jail is about the only thing that is going to produce payment, and that is our main goal. We’re not going to wait eight years anymore. If you don’t support your children, you’re going to go to jail.”
Delinquent parents can face possible felony charges if they have a prior conviction or the children are under the age of 14, O’Brien said.
David Burns, the deputy district attorney assigned to family support, estimated that two-thirds of the department’s case load are parents on welfare. When a parent is receiving aid, family support goes after the other parent for reimbursement. Family support also enforces support orders for non-welfare couples and helps to establish paternity. O’Brien emphasized that state law requires the county garnish the non-custodial parent’s wages in all welfare cases.
“There is sometimes a stigma attached to wage assignments, and there should not be,” he said. “We are required to automatically do it. It does not mean the parent is a deadbeat.”
El Dorado County already has one of the highest rates of recovery in the state at 44 percent, O’Brien said.
“This new protocol is an experiment,” he said. “We know there are a significant number of parents that aren’t paying. In the past we would jump through hoops trying to collect and eventually those cases might have been set aside. Now we’ll have a time limit of three months and then we’ll move to criminally prosecute those parents.”
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