An upcoming amnesty week will allow people who are behind on child support to get help without fear of arrest. (Image: MGNOnline)

Parents who are behind on child support payments can get help later this month without fear of arrest. 

"It's really geared for people who already have a warrant for their arrest," state attorney Jacquelyn Griffith said of the amnesty week. 

When someone is behind on child support, they can be held in contempt of court and a magistrate can issue a warrant for their arrest. The magistrate then sets a "purge" amount, which is how much the person would have to pay to get out of jail. 

If you go 

What: Child support amnesty week 

When: Monday–Friday, Jan. 23–27, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

Where: 1221 E. Main St.

"Each sentence for contempt is capped at 180 days to ensure that parents without the present ability to purge don’t serve indefinite amounts of time," child support magistrate Kathy Clark said via email.
"The court’s authority to incarcerate is not intended to be punishment—the purpose is to persuade a better pattern of payment."

From Jan. 23 to 27, people who have a warrant and purge amount can go to 1221 E. Main St. and negotiate with a state attorney to have the warrants dropped. 

For example, if the purge amount is $1,000 and the person only has $300, the attorney could draft an order to allow the person to pay the $300 and the warrant would be gone.

In addition to the good faith payment, participants will have the opportunity to meet with potential employers and get information about educational opportunities. 

"It's a way to avoid going to jail, and it encourages people to have a fresh start to 2017," she said.

There are more than 1,200 outstanding warrants for child support in Hamilton County now, and some of them are years old. 

Clark has worked with the issue in some capacity for almost 30 years and said leaders have done two of the amnesty weeks before that were successful, she said.

"It is my hope that this week will do the same and perhaps on a larger range of issues," Clark also said. 

For more information, call 423-508-6500.