Rebecca Zemmelman, For The Miami Student

Statistics from public jail records show Butler County has the second highest number of parents in prison for not paying child support in Ohio. The county is second only to Clermont County.

According to Dusty Dunaway, public relations coordinator for the Child Support Enforcement Agency of Butler County, there are approximately 30,000 cases of parents not paying their child support in Butler County each year, yet only 37 offenders are in jail right now.

Dunaway explained the process of convicting a parent for the crime of not paying for child support.

“If you haven’t paid in a very long time, and all options have been exhausted to collect the money, the parent will be sent to civil court,” Dunaway said. “If they still do not pay, the case will go to criminal court. The criminal court is the worst of the worst. From there, the grand jury is asked to indict them. They can either enter a program to get a job and counseling or go straight to jail. The prosecutor does not have to accept the case in the first place, though. “

According to Dunaway, many of the parents are compliant or are only behind on a few payments, so there is not a need to send them to jail.

Lee Oldendick, assistant Butler County prosecutor, said this is not an anomaly, and it appears there has been more enforcement going on in the past few years.

“More and more parents have been failing to support their children,” Oldendick said.

Oldendick said the parents who are prosecuted typically are those who have not paid child support for two years.

“It’s not just fathers that don’t pay child support.” Oldendick said. “There are a lot of mothers that have abandoned their children just as well,”

However, according to Oldendick, it is much more difficult to send parents to prison after House Bill 86 was passed by the Ohio General Assembly.

The bill states that individuals that commit a felony of not being able to provide child support will be handled at the local level. This is a way to cut down on federal prison space to preserve the federal budget. The general jail time of a non-support case is up to 12 months, according to Oldendick.

According to Dunaway, the Child Support Agency has a great relationship with their partners in the sheriffs and prosecutors office. They work together trying to reach out to the parents and they are able to speak to the offender’s employers, suspend their driver’s license or take money out of their accounts.

Miami University junior Alek Lucke said the punishment process for not paying child support is appropriate to the crime.

“I’d say that the punishment, as displayed by the data regarding their collections, is pretty decent,” Lucke said. “If it is much more severe it won’t help the child at all and more greatly harms the parent making the payments. The program of counseling and finding a job for the parents is an exceptional idea and should definitely be pursued more vigorously.”