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Sentences highlight problem of parents failing to keep up with child support

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MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - Two judges highlighted a very common problem in Wisconsin, when they ordered fathers not to have more any kids until they pay to support the ones they have.

The Journal Sentinel says only about half of Milwaukee County parents are keeping up with their court-ordered child support payments. And of those who are behind, two-thirds have not made any payments lately.

The problem made national news in December, when a judge told a Racine man to stop having babies, and start paying to support the 9 kids he had with 6 women.

This month, a judge in Sawyer County gave a similar sentence to a Hayward man – and he ordered the man to tell any woman he meets within three minutes that he’s a convicted felon, and he’s a deadbeat father.

Milwaukee defense lawyer John Birdsall calls those sentences “outrageous.” But Circuit Judge Carl Ashley says any outside influence and judicial persuasion can get deadbeat parents to start paying at least some of what they owe.

Milwaukee County has 124,000 parents who are supposed to pay child support. And when it comes to those who are behind, Ashley says “one size does not fit all.” He says those who try to be employed and make payments probably won’t be sent to jail for getting behind.

The Milwaukee County child support office helps fathers – and some mothers – get job training, housing, a driver’s license, or help with addictions if they need it. Those in arrears can be held in contempt of court and go to jail for six months, but Ashley says it’s a “hammer” that judges would rather not use.

Milwaukee County prosecutors have about 40 child support cases pending – and they say criminal charges are the last resort. 

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