Putnam County ranked fourth toughest county in Indiana in 2005 to prosecute parents for failing to pay child support, Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter announced this week.
Bookwalter said he filed 58 criminal cases of non-support against parents last year, only trailing behind Ohio, Elkhart and Monroe counties.
"When I became prosecutor in January 2005, nothing seemed to happen to the habitual non-payees," Bookwalter said in a press release. "I was told there was nothing we could do to get these deadbeat parents to pay. After being charged and arrested, these first 58 have now paid almost $140,000 in support."
He said he filed 29 of the 58 cases in February 2005 and that 25 percent of the missing money has been paid back.
"This is an extraordinary figure from people who were thought to be uncollectible," Bookwalter said.
Bookwalter said that by "cracking down" on the first 58 offenders, it made the prosecutor's office more effective in collecting child support and establishing paternity throughout the child support system.
Each year in Putnam County, the child support office handles about 1,300 cases and collects more than $2.7 million in child support payments. Additionally, the percentage of cases where paternity has been established involving children born out of wedlock has increased from 88 percent in 2005 to 94 percent in 2006.
"I can't think of anything worse than refusing to support a child that you brought into the world," Bookwalter said. "Being firm seems to be the answer in these cases."