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Tougher child support laws sought

February 20, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Frustrated by a system that they say offers little help in getting their ex-boyfriends to pay child support for their children, some Waynesboro women are starting an effort to change the nation's child-support laws.

The women say states operate under different rules, making it hard for parents to track down ex-partners or get them to pay child support.

"We were sitting around drinking Pepsi and smoking one day after Christmas, and we started talking about the problems we were having getting child support," said Bonnie Cochran, 54. Her daughter, Massina Cochran, 24, has been unable to get child support from the father of her 3-year-old daughter, she said.

The women are neighbors in a low-income apartment complex in Waynesboro. Other members of the fledgling organization are April Boucher, 25, the main force behind of the effort and mother of three children ages 4 to 8, and Kathy Biser, 27, mother of a 6-year-old.

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Boucher said she has had no child support payments from the father of her two oldest children. He lives in Kentucky. Her problem stems from having to deal with different laws between Pennsylvania and Kentucky, she said.

The father of her youngest child pays support, she said.

The father of Massina Cochran's child lives in Ohio. She echoed the same complaints.

"Pennsylvania is doing a good job, but he lives in Ohio and the laws are different there," she said.

Kiser's problem is closer to home because the father of her child lives in the Tri-State area. "I know where he is, but I can't get him to pay because he lives in another state. All of us know where our ex-boyfriends are, but they won't pay because they live out of state."

"The bottom line here is that we need child support laws that are the same in every state," Boucher said. "They need to be uniform. We need a central registry."

"The laws are just different enough in each state to throw you off. They put up kinks that you just can't get around," Kiser said.

Bonnie Cochran said she got child support when her children were young. "It's a lot harder today than it was back then," she said.

Teresa Anthony is director of Franklin County Domestic Relations in Chambersburg, Pa. The agency investigates child support cases and makes recommendations to the courts on who should pay child support and how much they should pay. Agency staffers also work with companies in attaching wages for child support payments.

Anthony, too, believes there should be more uniformity in child support laws among states. Trying to get child support from someone who has moved to another state is difficult, she said.

"I know they're frustrated. They're mothers and they're trying to help their children," Anthony said. "We get just as frustrated at times."

The Waynesboro women call their new organization the Parent Child Support Association. They hope to have their own Web site soon.

They held their first meeting Feb. 15 in a private home. "Only one person showed up, but I've been getting a lot of phone calls from women," Boucher said.

The next meeting will be in the basement of the Citizens National Bank on March 29 at 7 p.m. Call Boucher at 1-717-762-3338 for more information.

The local group hopes to fashion itself after the national Association for Children for Enforcement of Support Inc.

According to the December 1998 issue of the association's newspaper, it has 40,000 members in 47 states. The association lobbied Congress to pass federal laws making it a crime to cross state lines to avoid paying child support, according to the newspaper.

Boucher said the local group will press state and congressional representatives for changes in the laws. It also will become a support group to help area residents with child support problems and a local clearing house of information, much of which will be garnered via the Internet.

The association has adopted a green ribbon as its symbol. The members plan to wear and distribute them. "We picked green because it's the color of money and because it's a bold color," Boucher said. "And we're bold women."

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