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New ways of making deadbeats pay up
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 11/23/2007 1:07 AM

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It wasn't a great Father's Day, this year, for 130 dads in Cook County.

Then again, these aren't great fathers.

All 130 were arrested for failure to pay child support in Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart's "Operation Father's Pay."

In total, the deadbeats owed $1.5 million in child support. If you are inclined to think these are guys who are trying to make good but are just going through hard times, one of them was earning over $90,000 a year at the time of his arrest, according to Dart.

And every day that passes without these negligent fathers -- and mothers -- meeting their child support obligations is another day of a child having to do without a new pair of shoes, school supplies, a comfortable place to live, a toy.

It's bad enough that these children are forced to cope with not having two loving parents at their side without the pain being compounded by the lack of child support from a parent who doesn't even think his or her children are worth the money. But these children do have the state of Illinois on their side. Illinois has been aggressive in forcing deadbeat parents to pay up.

Two new initiatives recently signed into law by Gov. Rod Blagojevich should help children finally get that check that is forever in the mail.

One allows the state to track deadbeats through the issuance of fishing or hunting licenses. And anyone owing more than $1,000 in child support will lose the privilege to catch a fish or hunt game. This is apparently too much for some deadbeats to live with, as it is estimated this will bring in $60 million in unpaid child support.

A sterner measure allows the state to step up suspensions of deadbeats' driver's licenses until support payments are made. It also permits municipalities to put "Denver boots" on vehicles of child support debtors. The wheels won't roll again until they open their wallets.

It can be argued that taking cars away from deadbeats means they can't get to their jobs to earn money to pay child support. It can also be said that this leverage -- or the threat of impounding a vehicle -- is necessary to force those owing child support to start making good on payments.

Illinois used to have one of the nation's worst child support collection rates. At one time, it was facing the risk of being sanctioned by the federal government.

In 1999, the state made a huge mess of managing the child support that had been collected. A centralization of the child support distribution system, run by the DuPage County circuit court clerk's office, rendered the state incapable of getting checks out on time. But that system has since been repaired.

In fact, the child support collection system in Illinois today is far better than what it used to be. It must be, as long as mothers and fathers defy the courts -- and turn their backs on their own children -- in refusing to pay.