Kent County extends amnesty for parents behind on child support

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Thousands of Kent County parents with arrest warrants for unpaid child support are getting more time and opportunities to come up with a solution to avoid jail.

The Friend of the Court is extending its current moratorium on arresting parents with bench warrants out of Grand Rapids until its community engagement task force finishes a report on tackling the problem.

The task force will be in charge of coming up with recommendations for enforcing court-ordered child support and bench warrants for parents who owe and don’t show up for scheduled Family Court hearings. The group will collect community ideas and research best methods before forwarding its report to the circuit court by March 31, 2017.

The Friend of the Court is also holding another amnesty event for parents to work out plans to settle their debt without fear of arrest. It will take place Dec. 6 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at LINC UP, located at 1167 Madison Ave. SE.

The Friend of the Court said it closed 150 bench warrants against parents during a similar amnesty event in August. That event also featured resources to help parents find jobs and deal with problems like substance abuse or mental health conditions.

Court officials estimate there are about 3,500 outstanding bench warrants for parents who owe support for 6,000 children.

Kent County has two deputies now dedicated to Friend of the Court enforcement, looking to collect the millions of dollars in outstanding child support.

Grand Rapids’ Friend of the Court plans to hold additional amnesty events next year. Members of the task force will be announced around Dec. 1.

**Correction: An earlier version of this article stated, “The Friend of the Court is extending its current moratorium on arresting parents with bench warrants until its community engagement task force is up and running.” That moratorium applies only to warrants issued out of Grand Rapids, and will run until the task force finishes its community report at the end of March 2017. The article text has been updated.