When it comes to enforcing child support orders, Pennsylvania’s Domestic Relations Offices rely on Rule 1910.20 of the Rules of Civil Procedure and its accompanying rules. These rules allow for the increasing of the arrears payments; seizing income such as tax refunds or settlement proceeds; imposing liens on real property; or even the suspension of the individual’s driver’s license.
In Pennsylvania’s system, failing to appear for a support contempt hearing will result in a bench warrant for one’s arrest. At that point, you are held until you appear before a judge and either volunteer to make a lump sum payment against the support arrears, or are ordered to make a payment and sit in jail until the payment is made.
Once the bench warrant is issued, the usual course of events is that the individual is pulled over for a minor traffic offense or some other reason and the law enforcement officer sees the warrant for his or her arrest, arrests them, and has them before a judge shortly thereafter. Sometimes the Sheriff’s office will send out a task force to serve the warrants and bring people in as part of a larger operation.
This brings me to the tactics of the Lee County, Alabama Sheriff’s Office and some interesting video. Lee County took the creative way of serving their warrants on delinquent parents by sending them letters informing them that they have won two tickets to this season’s Auburn versus Alabama football game. In football crazed Alabama, this game has universal appeal and not surprisingly some excited fans appeared to claim their “tickets.” Lee County kept up the sweepstakes winning fiction right up until the handcuffs were snapped on.
I have not known of any Pennsylvania’s DRO office that has gone to these lengths to bring in delinquent payor, but Counties are definitely motivated to clear as much support arrears as possible from their books because certain types of state and federal funding can be affected by the amount of support arrears a County carries. Typically, DRO will generate and issue the support enforcement action without the payee ever having to file an enforcement petition with the Court. Though perhaps not as creative as Lee County’s Sherriff’s Department (and admittedly, less controversial), Pennsylvania’s DRO offices will use every tool afforded them under the Support Code.