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18 Arrested Over Child Support Payments in Pennsylvania

Raising children is always expensive — there’s simply no way around that. In the case of a divorce, while the marriage may have ended, the parents’ financial obligations to the child have not. Paying child support is mandated by federal law, and in fact, under Section 228 of Title 18, in the vast majority of scenarios, it is illegal for anyone to deliberately sidestep making child support payments. In a clear summary provided by the United States Department of Justice, “An individual is subject to federal prosecution if he or she willfully fails to pay child support that has been ordered by a court,” provided the amount exceeds a certain threshold — which is exactly what happened in the cases of 18 Pennsylvanians this week.

18 Parents Behind on Child Support Payments in Pennsylvania

Montgomery County Sheriff Eileen Behr is no stranger to enforcing child support laws. Back in the summer of this year, she ordered 2013’s first sweep, with the goal of netting parents across Pennsylvania who were behind on their child support payments. At the conclusion of that sweep, Behr offered amnesty to the individuals who had been caught, providing an escape from jail time in exchange for the parents making — and sticking to — a payment plan. This time around, the temperatures were cooler — and so was Behr’s attitude. In a statement from her office, “These defendants had already had a chance to resolve their issues,” and no amnesty was offered.

The sweep had a high success rate. Of the 37 individuals Behr was pursuing, 18 were captured, including some who had successfully evaded law enforcement in the past, like Anthony Garrity of Lansdale — who owed over $25,000. Working closely with the Bucks County Sheriff Department, the Montgomery County Sheriff Department sent out a fan of 22 deputies to comb not just one town, but many, including Lansdale, Hatfield, North Wales, Collegeville, Norristown, and Willow Grove.

Child Custody 2 - 18 Arrested Over Child Support Payments in Pennsylvania

Over $180,000 Collectively Owed for Child Support Payments

Under federal law, the threshold past which failure to pay child support becomes criminal is $5,000. Most of the parents netted in Behr’s late-night (or early-morning) sweep, which ran over five hours from approximately 1:30 A.M. until 6:30 A.M., owed two, three, or even five times that amount. Garrity was far from the only parent with a steep debt to pay — Kathleen Johns of Hatfield, for example, owed about $20,000, as did Allen Vanmatre of Souderton. One man in Ardmore owed as much as $37,000. Even at the “low” end of the scale, Andrew DeCarlo of Colmar owes just over $5,000.

Together, the 18 parents — 14 men and four women — owe about $180,000.

While the sweep was a success, there are still child support criminals who haven’t been taken into custody. Rebecca Colantuno, who works as the assistant director at the Domestic Relations Office’s law enforcement unit, estimates that there are as many as 15,000 delinquent child support cases in Pennsylvania. But, for the time being, 25 children between 18 parents are $180,000 better off than they had been. In the words of Deputy Joanne Plasterer, “It was a good night for us.”

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