By Chris Kramer
In many divorce cases, child custody and child support are central issues to the divorcing couple. After all, determining how and where your kids will live pretty much dictates how and where the rest of the family will live. One Kentucky judge has developed a new program to help divorcing families in his county work through some of the problems associated with splitting a family.
According to Kentucky.com, Judge Gene Clark was tired of seeing parents in his court who were delinquent on child support payments because they couldn't find work - and he decided to do something about it.
Clark apparently realized that the economy of Clay County, KY was tough - Census stats show that 37.2% of the county's residents are poor, compared with 16.9%; the median household income comes to just over half that of the rest of the state - but he wasn't sure whether the parents he saw in court were actually unable to find work, or just using the weak economy as an excuse.
To give parents late on child support the benefit of the doubt, Clark reportedly asked for proof of job-seeking efforts during court hearings. He allegedly worked with county lawyers to give parents an amnesty period before they'd be arrested for not making child support payments.
But, despite the fact that many of those in arrears on child support were facing jail time, results were mediocre.
So Clark tried something new. Sources indicate that he arranged for representatives from the Job Shop, a job-placement firm based in London, KY, to conduct business across the hall from his courtroom. When parents delinquent on child support claim difficulty finding work, Clark evidently sends them to the Job Shop workers.
There, the parents can complete a screening and fill out an application so that the representatives might place them in a job. Currently, the program is only in a pilot phase, and can operate only one day a month while administrators work out the details, according to reports. But early success has suggested that the program holds promise: during its first day, 12 delinquent parents were sent to apply for jobs. Of the 10 who participated in screening, four apparently got jobs.
And, to further aid the struggling parents of Clay County, Clark has reportedly arranged for a poverty-relief agency to provide transportation to and from work for those without reliable vehicles, since some of the jobs are as much as 30 miles away.
It seems Judge Clark's program has garnered attention from other judges around the state, who are impressed with the apparent success of the nascent program. Though the Job Shop reps are currently only in the courthouse once a month, sources report that Clark tries to include as many child support delinquency hearings on that day as possible.
Divorce isn't easy for anyone, and neither is economic hardship. Hopefully, programs like Judge Clark's will help improve the lives of those affected by both.