D.A. pushes for harsher penalties for those who fail to pay child support

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MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - Parents who don't pay their child support may soon be spending more time in jail. District Attorney Jerry Jones is pushing for new legislation that would put harsher penalties on those deadbeat parents who don't pay up.

Most recently, Assistant District Attorney Alex Loomis Barham prosecuted a case where one deadbeat father was forced to pay more than $18,000 in child support. Barham says the single mother of two was struggling to get by.

"She didn't have a car. She was on food stamps. While the non-custodial parent was doing just fine," said Barham.

And it's situations like this that are prompting District Attorney Jerry Jones to ask for harsher penalties for parents who don't pay up.

"These kids need to eat. These kids are doing without. These kids need support from those fathers and mothers who fail to pay child support," said Jones.

Right now, the 2004 law charges those who have failed to pay for more than a year or owe more than $15,000 with a felony and up to two years in jail. Jones says the law is effective but he needs more.

"It works. And I'm glad to say it works. But listen, the penalty is 2 years. And that's not enough to really scare someone," said Jones.

The new law that Jones hopes to introduce next year would up that jail time.

"If I can get 5 that would be great, if I can't I'll settle for 3, but I need more time," said Jones.

Jones says it's not about putting these people in jail; it's about making them pay up for the benefit of the children.

"But, if I can't I have to have a big enough ax over their head to make them want to pay," said Jones.

"If we're not getting the money then there's nothing else we can do, so there has to be a consequence," said Barham.

The case that prompted the 2004 legislation forced the deadbeat parent to pay more than $28,000.

If you're having a problem with getting child support contact your local sheriff and they'll report the situation to the D.A. office.