Pay up or get locked up. That’s the message Richmond County is sending to deadbeat parents.
During a week-long sting, the county’s crime suppression team arrested moms and dads who owe thousands of dollars in back child support payments. Deputies arrested more than 70 people out of 168 warrants. One father owed more than $87,000 in back pay.
“His last payment was made January 31, 2005. He literally packed up in the middle of the night and moved," said a mother.
The single mom, who didn’t want to be identified, says she’s been waiting on this day for a long time. The father of her child owes $12,000 in back child support.
"It’s been a real struggle. She needs glasses and braces. All that cost money," said the mother.
Officers went door to door hunting down deadbeat parents. Those arrested faced a judge Friday.
"There are thousands of children not receiving support and millions of dollars are due to children in the community," said Judge Sheryl Jolly, Superior Court.
Jolly is one of the judges behind this operation. She sees about 50 child support cases a week. She says most of the parents who are behind on their payments don’t have a steady job.
"They don’t have regular employment, lack the skills of a regular job or are just lazy and don’t want a job to get out of paying these obligations," said Jolly.
But one father who was arrested doesn’t agree.
"I should be given a chance to pay my child support now that I have a job. I wouldn’t be out in the heat and rain if I wasn’t going to pay. Now we’re getting locked up," he said.
He didn’t want to be identified, but says the problem isn’t just when the dads don’t pay up. It’s also how the moms are spending the money.
"When the father does pay, the mother misuses it by going out to the clubs or spending it on her friends," he said.
"For every one of those, there’s a thousand where the custodial parent needs the money to support the child," said Jolly.
Support deputies say deadbeat parents will have to give if they want to get out of jail.
"The message we are trying to get across , if you are not paying your child support, catch it up or we’ll come pick you up," said Cpl. Hal Hitchcock, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
Judge Jolly tells NBC Augusta Richmond County plans to conduct these child support sweeps throughout the year.
Parents had to pay their child support in full to get out of jail. Most in court were given the option of paying $500 upfront and setting up payments for the balance or spend 30 days in jail.