WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) – There will be no more slaps on the wrist for parents seriously behind on making child support payments. For the first time ever, they could face criminal charges. Three men are the first to be charged locally and Winnebago County’s State’s Attorney hopes their arrests send a message to every deadbeat mom and dad.
Amber Gonzales says her son Drake hasn’t seen his dad in more than 2 years and she hasn’t seen a dime in support either. “We can’t put him in any activities because I really can’t afford it right now. Because I only work part time, I just can’t afford it right now and that little $200 a month could help so much,” Gonzales said.
Now, for the first time ever, criminal charges could be filed against parents like Gonzales’ ex. They must have the means, but failed to pay in more than a year or owe more than $20,000 in support. It’s a change Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato has been trying to implement since he was first elected in 2008.
“Pay your child support, it is your responsibility to do so. If you fail to do so, then every effort that is available to us under law will be used including the possibility of being prosecuted,” warns Bruscato.
With help from the Attorney General, these three dads are the first to be charged criminally in prison and if found guilty they could be fined $25,000 and spend three years in prison. Some argue, what’s the point if that prohibits them from providing money to their kids. That’s why the courts would help them set up a payment plan.
Gonzales hopes this will stop more deadbeat parents from dodging their responsibilities.
Bruscato didn’t have an exact number on how many cases there are in Winnebago County. It’s something the Attorney General’s office handles on the civil side before criminal prosecutions begin.
Bruscato also wouldn’t say specifically if more arrests were coming, but he did stress his office wants to seek justice in these cases where the parent has the ability to pay but is choosing not to.