Local News

Under State Law, Deadbeat Parents Can Avoid Paying Child Support

Posted February 11, 2003 5:43 a.m. EST

— Nearly 500,000 children depend on the state of North Carolina to collect child support on their behalf. Last year, the state collected almost $500 million for them. However, deadbeat dads can legally avoid paying child support.

Tracy Simpson is fighting to collect child support from her children's father, Dale Meredith, but there is a problem. Meredith is in prison. Thanks to a loophole in the state law, when Meredith gets out, he can file a motion with the court, asking that all the child support, which accrued during his jail stay, be erased.

"From January of this year until July of 2004, my children will not be getting any child support," Simpson said.

Wake County District Court Judge Chris Bailey said his hands are tied by the law.

"It seems somewhat unfair that when someone makes a choice to commit a crime and goes away to jail or prison and the child support isn't paid during that time," he said.

Simpson is writing to state legislators asking them to change the law.

"What kind of message are we sending to the children of North Carolina? In essence, we're rewarding the parent for bad behavior," she said.

"You don't want to bury someone under a child support obligation that they become frustrated and would rather go to prison, but at the same time, you want them to be responsible and take care of the needs of the child," Bailey said.

Simpson's ex-husband had been in jail before. When he was released, more than $3,000 in payments which accrued during his incarceration were forgiven.