Deadbeat parents pursued

A countywide crackdown on deadbeat parents has yielded more than 70 arrests.

Throughout the week, deputies from the Richmond County Sheriff's Office Crime Suppression Team have been rounding up parents who are late on child support payments, sheriff's Lt. Scott Gay said.

Those arrested have been charged with contempt for defaulting on court-ordered support payments for their children -- some by more than $80,000.

"There appears to be 169 that are delinquent on their child support payments," Lt. Gay said.

By Friday afternoon, 63 fathers and 10 mothers had been arrested.

Superior Court Judge Sheryl B. Jolly said earlier this week that Operation Back to School Sweep developed when the Office of Child Support Services sought her help to get a hold of the parents with the largest past-due payments. The back-to-school period seemed a good time to remind delinquent parents that they must support their children.

Thousands of children aren't getting monthly support payments, Judge Jolly said. The Office of Child Support Services has 447,570 cases in Georgia.

On Friday afternoon, those arrested throughout the week took a seat before Judge Jolly in jail jumpsuits and handcuffs. One man who fathered children with three different women hadn't made a child support payment since 2005 and owed about $82,000. He promised the judge he would get a job and start making payments. He got behind because of a three-year prison sentence, his mother said.

Most had excuses -- bills, layoffs, other children to support. In the end, however, they still have court-ordered payments to make, Judge Jolly explained.

"Would you like the opportunity to go back to work, or would you like to stay with us for awhile?" she asked a father who owed nearly $8,000. She told him he had to make a $500 payment or spend 30 days in jail. He asked what would happen after 30 days if he chose that option.

"You come back to see me," Judge Jolly said.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.