PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Are local courts allowing so-called deadbeat parents – who don’t pay child support – off the hook? Some spouses who are owed money say that family court is doing just that.
It’s a controversial new policy that was brought to light a few months back by KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan. After the report, the court promised changes.
Family court has maintained all along that they’re not dropping cases or letting those who owe money off the hook. They did, however, make some changes.
But still, the remaining policy continues to offend some abandoned spouses like Kristie Babinsack of Natrona Heights.
Helping her son, Austin, with his math homework is nothing new for Babinsack. Since being abandoned by her ex-husband, she’s raised a family all by herself.
“That burden was on me as a single mom,” said Babinsack. “I carried the insurance, I had a full time job, I took the kids to all their activities and paid for them.”
John Samples owes her more than $30,000 in back child support, but she hasn’t seen or heard from him for more than two years. One of his last known addresses was a Salvation Army shelter.
Patrick Quinn, the administrator of Family Court, says active monitoring of such cases is a drain on the court’s resources.
“The court ends up spinning its wheel if you will. Essentially using vital resources on cases where there is really no hope of getting support,” said Quinn.
Under a rule established by the State Supreme Court, the court now moves to suspend those debts until the ex-spouse can be found.
“There’s a technicality in what they’re calling it because they’re saying we’re not dropping the case, and I can’t exactly recall the wording, but they’re dropping the case,” said Babinsack.
It’s called a non-financial obligation order. Babinsack calls it a reward.
“You’re showing the parent that’s neglected they’re children that it’s okay to not pay and disconnect from your kids and run from the law,” Babinsack added.
Quinn says there is still a warrant out for Samples, and the debt will be reinstated if he is found.
“I would say it’s not a reward whatsoever. We’re not changing anything,” said Quinn. “We’re still looking for the individual. If we find them, we’ll do what we need to do.”
But now, Babinsack will need to come down to court next month to provide information about her husband’s whereabouts, his ability to pay and explain why the court should continue to actively monitor the case.
“To me that sounds tremendously unfair,” she said.
Sheriff William Mullen, whose job it is to enforce non-support warrants, does not believe that onus should be on her shoulders.
“Why should this woman, who has raised the children or the child, be burdened further by trying to find the person who disobeyed the court order,” he said. “We’re sort of rewarding the person for absconding.”
Babinsack, who is now remarried and has had more children, agrees.
“It’s not about the money, $30,000 – I’m not going to see a penny of that,” she said. “It’s about responsibility.”
Before KDKA’s last report, the court was simply suspending these debts by administrative order. Now, they are allowing spouses to have a hearing.
However, some people think that unfairly places the burden on people like Babinsack.