Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt arrested eight Orange County parents who violated court orders requiring them to pay child support.

The sweep was conducted in conjunction with the Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division. Today’s effort focused on parents who are wanted by authorities for failing to pay their court-ordered child support, according to a press release.

In addition to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Orange and Vidor Police Departments, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office participated in the countywide effort. Child Support Division investigators aided the sheriff by providing logistical assistance to locate missing parents.

“Parents have a moral and legal obligation to make regular child support payments,” Attorney General Greg Abbott said. “By collecting child support, we are ensuring young Texans have the resources they need to grow healthy and strong. We are grateful to Sheriff Keith Merritt, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Orange and Vidor Police Departments, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office for displaying unfailing commitment to Texas children.”

The sweep reflects the strong commitment of Sheriff Merritt and fellow law enforcement officials to track down parents who are wanted for contempt of court because of their failure to pay child support, the press release stated.

After holding a 4:30 a.m. briefing, Merritt dispatched teams of law enforcement officers to locate and arrest the noncompliant parents before they had a chance to leave their homes for the day.

Today’s Orange County roundup resulted in the arrest of eight parents whose failure to pay child support violates Texas law. Child support investigators held concurrent roundups in Van Zandt and Gregg counties, to net 24 arrests for today’s efforts. A total of 34 parents have been arrested in the three counties since late last month, when roundup preparations began.

Delinquent parents arrested on civil warrants face up to six months in jail. Cash bonds posted by delinquent parents seeking release from jail are paid to the custodial parents and children who are owed back child support.

Parents who have fallen behind on their child support payments – but are not subject to warrants for their arrest – should immediately contact the Attorney General’s Child Support Division at (800) 252-8014 to make payment arrangements.

Under state and federal law, the Office of the Attorney General can assist families who request child support services and must serve families who currently receive or have received public assistance.

Services offered by the Child Support Division include locating absent parents; establishing paternity for children born to unmarried parents; establishing, enforcing, and modifying child and medical support orders; and collecting and distributing child support payments.

Statewide, child support collected by the Office of the Attorney General exceeded $3 billion for the state fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, 2011. Orange county parents paid $13.9 million of that amount.