NEW BRUNSWICK - This week, the state is offering parents the chance to make a payment or arrange a payment plan without fear of being arrested for falling behind on child support.
In New Brunswick, parents are taking advantage of an opportunity that hasn't been offered since 2004.
Patrick Gibbs and Mike Kipper walked into the Probation and Child Support office trying to do right by themselves and their children.
Kipper wasn't paying his support and the state took his license, which cost him his job. He now owes $8,000 in back pay plus has an arrest warrant. "It was concerning every day walking out of the house and knowing I could get arrested going to work," he says.
Officers told Kipper they lifted the order and will restore his license after his payment is made as part of the amnesty program.
Gibbs is in arrears for $12,000 and still pays even though his kids are adults. The debt has cost him a chance to travel home. "I just figured I'd come here and see if they could reduce the bill or at least let me get a passport," he says.
Under the amnesty rules, anyone who attempts to strike a deal on child support won't get arrested, even if they can't make a payment. For those who do pay, the arrest warrant may even be erased.
Moms like Carolyn Newsom, who hasn't received a cent to help with her daughter, now 16, thinks the program is a great idea. "I'm sure there are some good guys who just fell on hard times and couldn't pay it," she says. "But if you're not paying just because you don't want to pay, then no, you should get locked up."
For those who do care for their children and want to straighten their lives, officials say the amnesty is an opportunity not to be missed.
By the end of the week the Department of Human Services plans to announce the numbers of parents who used the amnesty period. It's estimated that 400,000 children rely on child support.