Calhoun County lawmaker proposes bill that would allow parents to sue businesses for unpaid child support
by Tim Lockette
tlockette@annistonstar.com
Oct 21, 2013 | 4777 views |  0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTGOMERY – Employers who pay workers under the table would be liable for their employees' unpaid child support, under a bill proposed by a Calhoun County lawmaker.

Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, has pre-filed a bill that would allow a custodial parent to take a business to court if that parent is owed child support by an employee who's working an off-the-books job.

"We don't have the resources to police all the non-compliant child-support people," Nordgren said. "This will help families who are suffering and are frustrated."

Nordgren is a relatively new member of Calhoun County's legislative delegation. She represents House District 29, which historically covered parts of Etowah and DeKalb counties, but now covers a swath of rural Calhoun County north of Jacksonville and Wellington. She faces Etowah County Coroner Michael Gladden, a Democrat, in the 2014 election.

Nordgren said she routinely fields complaints from mothers who report that their exes are working, getting paid in cash, and not passing that pay along in the form of court-ordered child support.

Calhoun County District Judge Laura Phillips said it's a problem judges encounter often in child support cases.

"It's an issue especially with contractors and people who do a lot of piece-work," Phillips said. "A lot of the time, that work will be paid for under the table."

Phillips, who was unaware of Nordgren's bill until The Star asked her about it, said that because of the prevalence of off-the-books income, it's often hard for judges to make an initial determination of how much child support a parent owes.

Nordgren and Phillips both said employers who hire employees off the books are likely committing a crime – but Nordgren said putting employers in jail isn't the kind of justice moms want.

"They don't want their ex or anyone else locked up," she said. "They want him working and paying child support."

Nordgren said the bill, if it passed, could save the state money by bringing child support to working mothers who, without it, might need public assistance.

Still, the very undocumented nature of under-the-table work might make it hard for a mom to press her case.

"It would be very difficult to document," said Phillips, the judge. "You'd have to find someone who could testify, or find, through discovery, some place where it's documented."

Attempts to reach Michael Gladden, Nordgren's opponent in the 2014 election, for comment on the bill were unsuccessful Monday.

Nordgren's bill is pre-filed for introduction in the 2014 session of the Alabama Legislature, which begins in mid-January.

Capitol & statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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