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New program in Medina County aims to help parents not paying child support avoid a felony

Posted at 8:12 AM, Sep 18, 2018

In Medina County, there's about $48,000,000 of unpaid child support on the books. Forrest Thompson, the county's prosecutor, is fed up with excuses of those who don't pay it. He started the "Back on Track" program.

It's a collaboration between Medina County Job and Family Services, the Medina County Sheriff's Department and Thompson's office. If a parent doesn't pay 26 out of 104 weeks, the law states the parent could get a felony. The program invites all of those parents to a meeting where all three departments are present. 

At the meeting, it's explained to the parents just how much they owe, and they listen to why there have been missed payments.

"Some don't pay support because they don't want to. Some don't pay support because they don't have a clear understanding of what their obligation is. Some don't pay support because they can't," said Thompson. "It's an invitation to come to a collaborative agreement where they can avoid a felony."

The officials at the meeting, at times, create a payment plan for the parents. If that obligor doesn't have a job, the departments will try and assist in finding them one.

"The absolute last resort is a felony conviction. If you, as an individual, as an obligor, wind up with a felony conviction for non-support, it's because you have ignored everything that job and family services has done, everything the domestic relations or juvenile court has done, and you've ignored every opportunity that we've tried to give you to avoid a felony."

Thompson believes the program is a success. From October 2017 to June 2018, job and family services has seen an increase of around $730,000 than the previous year. 

"This is not about punishing someone for not paying support. This is about bringing the resources together to address a genuine need," he said. "I believe it makes a better environment for our children."

Now, other county prosecutors are asking Thompson about the program in hopes of implementing a similar one. 

The next meeting is in December.