Deadbeat Parents

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

More than 1,000 kids in our area are not getting the child support payments they deserve; some haven't seen a dime of support in years, but head to Wisconsin and you'll hear a different story.

When it comes to child support collection, Wisconsin has a far better record than Illinois. So what are they doing differently?

Head to Wisconsin and you'll find a different approach to child support collection.

"That individual that doesn't want to pay goes to jail,” says attorney Rodney Kimes.

Nationally, our northern neighbor gets high marks for child support collection. They collect on about 64 percent of cases. Down in Illinois, however, we collect on a mere 28 percent.

Rock County Judge James Welker says the system in Wisconsin works because deadbeats know if they don't pay up they'll get locked up.

"You have to give them a specific date, specific orders, here's what you have to do to avoid going to jail and it has to be done by this time. Then, on that date, they've either done it or they haven't, and if they haven’t they go to jail," says Judge James Welker.

Welker says being tough from the start keeps cases and back payments from building up. He says moms and dads rarely fall more than $1,500 behind in payments.

"If you actually do send people to jail, ultimately you're not filling up the jail because the word gets out," says Welker.

"Some individuals need that hammer, they need that motivation to make their payments. If they get told they're going to jail, most of them find their wallets," adds Kimes.

But equally as important, Judge Welker says in Wisconsin placement or visitation orders are also strongly enforced. He believes moms and dads who have relationships with their kids are more likely to support them.

"People want to sacrifice for their kids when they feel like they have a relationship with them and if you're simply going to take kids away from a parent, they're not going to want to support them," says Welker.

Welker says he doesn't know what he'd do in a county with a backlog of cases. He just knows in his courtroom that will never happen. The three judges in Rock County each devote one day a month to child support cases. In Winnebago County, two days a week are devoted to these cases.


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