FARMINGTON — The State of New Mexico has announced an amnesty period through the end of the month for non-custodial parents who have fallen behind on their child support payments.
Through Aug. 29, parents with an outstanding bench warrant related to unpaid child support may visit a child support office, pay the full amount of the bond and have the warrant quashed without fear of arrest, according to a press release.
Any parent unable to pay the full amount of the bond can have their bond payment reduced or can set up a payment plan, as long as they have the consent of the parent to whom the support is owed and the approval of the court that issued the warrant. Parents with a written job offer may also request to negotiate a lower bond payment with wage withholding payments.
"You have to contribute to the upbringing of your children," said Gov. Susana Martinez in a written statement. "Consistent child support payments are critical to helping kids and their families achieve economic stability, and New Mexico is committed to providing as many tools as possible to help parents support their children emotionally and financially."
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, Martinez's Democratic challenger in November's election, could not be reached for comment.
According to state records, 77 non-custodial parents in San Juan County are sought by the state on bench warrants for failing to pay a median of $28,548 in child support. Altogether, those parents owe $3.5 million in unpaid child support.
As of Friday, there were 658 active bench warrants issued statewide for parents who owed a combined $20.3 million in child support.
This is the third consecutive year the state has offered amnesty to parents sought on bench warrants for child support, according to the press release. The release states the Child Support Enforcement Division of the New Mexico Human Services Department collected a record amount — $137.1 million — in child support in fiscal year 2014.
In 2012, the National Child Support Enforcement Association recognized the state's child support program as "most improved," based on its ability to establish paternity and collect on past due child support. The state's ranking improved from 48th in the nation — including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands — to 40th, the association said in a press release.
Martinez proclaimed August 2014 Child Support Awareness Month to "salute all New Mexico parents who support their children, and encourage all parents to assume responsibility for improving the economic and social well-being of their children," the release states.
Parents with questions about child support may contact the Child Support Enforcement Division at 800-288-7207 in-state, or 800-585-7631 for out-of-state parents.
BY THE NUMBERS
658: active bench warrants statewide for failure to pay child support
77: active warrants in San Juan County
$20.3 million: total owed by parents statewide who have failed to pay child support
$3.5 million: total owed by parents in San Juan County
$28,548: median amount owed by San Juan County parents who have failed to pay child support
Source: Child Support Enforcement Division of the New Mexico Human Services Department