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Credit Tied to Child Support : Law: Reiner to announce program for delinquencies to appear on parents’ records. He had been criticized for not adopting plan sooner.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles County parents who are behind in their child support payments will have until October to pay up, or have the obligation show up as a black mark on their credit rating, the district attorney’s office is scheduled to announce today.

“There are a lot of people not paying their child support out there,” said Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner in an interview Wednesday. “It accumulates and we crack down and they pay, and then it accumulates again.

“This will be not unlike payments on a car or a credit card,” Reiner said. “If you make your payments, your credit will be enhanced. If not, of course, it will be the opposite.”

The new program, which local women’s groups have sought for more than five years, will affect the more than 300,000 parents in the county who have been ordered to pay child support. Mandated by a 1990 state law, it marks the latest local development in a statewide crackdown on so-called “deadbeat” mothers and fathers.

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“It’s an idea that’s long overdue, and it should have been implemented in every county in California long ago,” said lawyer Gloria Allred, a longtime advocate of tougher child support enforcement.

In 1986, Allred led a Mother’s Day picket outside the downtown Criminal Courts Building in which she called for an almost identical credit reporting procedure while protesting what she called Reiner’s lack of cooperation on child support issues.

Reiner said Wednesday that he moved cautiously on the credit reporting measure because of the potential for damaging the credit worthiness of reputable consumers. He added that the size of the county also slowed implementation.

Last year, Reiner narrowly lost the state primary race for attorney general after being criticized by his opponent and women’s groups for having the state’s worst child support collection record. Later, Reiner appeared publicly with Allred to announce an amnesty program encouraging delinquent parents to pay up.

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Also last year, as part of a federal mandate to improve child support collections, a new state law went into effect ordering district attorneys to adopt the credit reporting programs statewide. So far, Los Angeles is the 37th county to adopt the procedure, which is expected to be in place statewide by January, state officials said.

This summer, state legislators seized on child support enforcement as a means of lowering welfare costs and cutting budgetary red ink. A series of reforms signed into law last month, for example, impose heavy fines on delinquent parents and jeopardize their business and professional licenses.

Allred called the credit reporting measure “one of the most important developments in child support enforcement in a long time.” According to the state Department of Social Services, child support collections rose 12% in Yolo County and 25% in Sacramento County after credit reporting programs were announced there.

But critics of the new program charge that it discriminates against men, who pay the bulk of child support nationwide.

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“All this does is perpetuate a form of backdoor alimony,” said Rod Bivings, president of the Orange County-based United Fathers of America.

“They’d be so much smarter to keep fathers more closely involved in their children’s lives so mom can go out and get a job,” he said.


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