Nicole St. Peter
Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey today asked the public for its help in locating the state's Ten Most Wanted deadbeat parents who owe their children more than $1 million in unpaid child support.
"Parenthood is not only a privilege, it's a responsibility. We're calling attention to these parents because they are deliberately avoiding their responsibility," said Healey.
The Department of Revenue created the Ten Most Wanted poster program in 1992 to shine a spotlight on some of the worst child support delinquents in Massachusetts. Some noncustodial parents have tried to evade their financial responsibilities, but through the exposure of the poster they have not be able to hide for long.
Appearing at the news conference with Healey was Linda Payne-Violet of Salem, a mother of two teenagers who works as a nurse's assistant at a hospice center. Her former husband's last child support payment of $14.15 was made in November 2002. The family is owed nearly $200,000.
"Without child support, we were evicted from our home, our car was repossessed and we had to move in with my family," said Payne-Violet. "We went from a middle class family to a poor family overnight."
Non-payment of child support is a felony in Massachusetts. Most delinquent parents featured on the poster are charged with two felony violations - willful non-payment of support and leaving the state without making arrangements to pay child support. Each violation carries a two-and-a-half year sentence and a $5,000 fine.
Since April 1992 when the first poster appeared, 94 deadbeat parents have been featured. Eighty-five either surrendered or were arrested. Seven remain at large today, including Daniel C. Martinez, who is featured for a second time on the poster unveiled today. Two custodial parents withdrew from the program. Total collections from delinquent parents on the posters are nearly $3 million.
"The poster has proven to be an effective tool for collecting back child support, not just from those parents pictured on the poster but from others who don't want to be on a future poster," said Marilyn Ray Smith, Deputy Commissioner for Child Support Enforcement. "So the overall success of the program is more than the $3 million collected from those pictured on the posters."
"Governor Romney and I have zero tolerance for parents who refuse to meet their legal obligations and care for the welfare of their children," said Healey. "Every parent should fulfill his or her role as fathers and mothers. The future of many children are at stake."
The poster is just one method the Child Support Enforcement Agency uses to collect child support. The agency has many enforcement tools, including state and federal tax refund intercept and powers to revoke driving and professional licenses. Last fiscal year, the state collected $443 million in child support payments, up nine percent over Fiscal Year 2002.
Child Support Enforcement's mission is to protect the economic well being of children by enforcing the financial responsibilities of parenthood. The agency also assists parents in establishing paternity and child support orders, collecting child support and asking courts to adjust child support orders when circumstances change. Any parent or guardian of a child under 18 years old can ask the agency for help.
The Ten Most Wanted posters will be hung in post offices, courts, government offices and businesses. The poster is also posted on the Department of Revenue's Web site at www.mass.gov/dor. Anyone with information about any of the delinquent parents on the poster should call the tip line at 1-888-926-8337.