The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Attorney general hopeful backs plan to collect child support; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Owe back child support? Have a cell phone? The commonwealth might be getting in touch soon.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, told reporters Thursday that he supports and would work to expand the use of cell-phone subscriber information to track down parents who owe delinquent child-support payments.

Virginia’s Department of Social Services recently sent out administrative subpoenas to a number of wireless service providers in an effort to track down 48 of the commonwealth’s worst offenders.

“I’m not afraid to say I’m not the fount of all wisdom,” Deeds said, praising the department’s actions. Virginia already has relationships with banks and utility companies that child support investigators can use to track down parents who owe back support but can’t be located.

“The Department of Social Services has hit on another good idea,” he said. Coming to terms with cell service providers would be a great improvement on the current system.

The state can issue an administrative subpoena without a judge’s approval, but it would vastly improve the system if investigators could get the information through a streamlined process.

“We’ve got to continue the successful strategy of working with the private sector,” Deeds said. And while there are privacy concerns — people do have some expectation of privacy when they get cell service — those are trumped by the illegality of not paying child support.

“These are people who are … breaking the law,” he said. “If you’re trying to get that information for another purpose” privacy concerns could be justified, “but in this situation, you’re trying to enforce an existing legal obligation.”

Deeds again cited a $2 billion gap between what children are owed in Virginia and what they’ve been paid. Statistics, he said, show that one in three custodial parents who don’t get child support payments wind up on state assistance.

“Our Department of Social Services and our Department of Child Support Enforcement do an outstanding job,” he said, but “we have piled the work on for the Division of Child Support Enforcement.”

Parents who don’t pay “create more welfare dependency. There may be a legitimate reason for that. If there is, you go to court and you figure it out,” he said.

Deeds will face Republican candidate Del. Bob McDonnell of Virginia Beach in the Nov. 8 election.