Of amnesty, child support and the sheriff

A weeklong amnesty in Montgomery County for deadbeat dads — and a couple of moms — and the subsequent law-enforcement roundup week netted $20,300 in child support payments this month, officials said Wednesday.

For the first time since 2009, the county offered an amnesty week for parents whose failure to pay child support resulted in warrants being issued for their arrest.

From June 10 through June 14, delinquents could appear voluntarily before authorities and pay, or make arrangements to pay, the support they owed and avoid arrest, Sheriff Eileen Whalon Behr said. If they didn’t show up, then sheriff’s deputies would look for them and arrest them the following week.

As a result, Behr said, “108 children will get some type of support.”

During the amnesty week, 45 defendants who came to the domestic relations office — two mothers and 43 fathers — paid $1,300 immediately.

An additional 29 people who were picked up by sheriff’s deputies or walked into the courthouse themselves during the roundup week from June 17 through June 21, were detained and seen by County Judge Rhonda Lee Daniele.

Why didn’t those “volunteers” just come in during amnesty week?

“The excuses were vast,” said Rebecca Colantuno, assistant director of the county’s domestic relations enforcement unit.

Daniele jailed 20 of those 29 defendants and released nine for various reasons, such as being unable to pay because of medical circumstances.

Colantuno said that out of the county’s approximate 15,000 child-support cases, 80 percent of parents make their payments.

“You spend 80 percent of your time on the 20 percent who don’t pay,” she said.

Those who didn’t take advantage of the amnesty and weren’t found during roundup week shouldn’t get too comfortable.

"We’re still coming for them," the sheriff said.