Bill Description: House Bill 194 requires the Department of Health and Welfare to initiate contempt proceedings against a parent who is delinquent in paying child support under certain circumstances.
Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?
House Bill 194 amends Section 7-610, Idaho Code, to require the Department of Health and Welfare to initiate contempt proceedings against a parent who is delinquent in paying child support if the outstanding debt is $5,000 or more, and the department believes that the parent has the ability to make child support payments as ordered.
It should be noted that a contempt charge is no small matter, carrying a penalty of up to $5,000 and the possibility of up to 30 days’ incarceration.
While such contempt charges can already be filed against parents who are delinquent in child support payments, House Bill 194 will force the department to launch such proceedings.
House Bill 194 creates Section 7-1204, Idaho Code, to further penalize parents who are delinquent in child support payments.
If a parent is found guilty of contempt as described above, and the outstanding debt is $10,000 or more, the parent "may not file or be heard on a petition for modification of a child custody order concerning the child or children whose support is delinquent" until the parent has reduced the delinquency to less than $10,000; "satisfied obligations under the support order" for the last 12 months; and "participated in and successfully completed" a 12-month probation period.
The requirements of the probation period are onerous as well. The parent must "meet, on at least a monthly basis, with a department employee assigned to oversee the obligor's probation" and "submit a monthly budget to such employee." The budget must include "amounts apportioned" to "satisfy the obligor's current support under the child support order" and to "reduce the obligor's delinquency."
Analyst Note: In a country that claims to have no debtors' prison and allows significant debts of almost all manner to be discharged through customary court proceedings, House Bill 194 imposes the threat of massive fines, incarceration, and onerous probation for unpaid debts. It is particularly concerning to see such a Dickensian response to unpaid debts mandated during a time of increased unemployment and economic upheaval.
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