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Does Incarceration Affect a Parent’s Child Support Obligations?

Paying child support is a court ordered responsibility, and if the noncustodial parent is incarcerated, this does not erase the obligation to pay for his or her children’s needs. Parents are expected to pay child support regardless of their personal situation, but the circumstances of the incarceration can have an affect on a parent’s child support obligations. In many cases, the noncustodial parent who is incarcerated can petition the court to modify the terms of the child support order while in jail.

State Laws on Child Support

Every state has its own rules regarding the payment of child support and the options for a noncustodial parent that is incarcerated while making child support payments. For example, in Illinois, the law states that child support cannot be collected from a parent while incarcerated, but if the parent in jail does not make payments the debt will add up and that parent will be required to pay the back child support once released. If the noncustodial parent does not pay the back child support, he could end up back in jail for a failure to pay his debts. In addition, 36 states and D.C. consider incarceration as involuntary unemployment for a noncustodial parent, which can have significant effects on the payment and collection of support payments for the child.

New Federal Rules for Child Support Payments

In 2016, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) updated its federal rules regarding noncustodial parents who are incarcerated and owe child support payments. Under the new rules, the incarcerated parent is allowed to seek a review of child support payments and potentially modify his or her obligations for a material change in circumstances. The new rules also prohibit states from treating incarceration as voluntary unemployment for the purposes of modifying a child support order.

How to Modify a Child Support Order

In order to modify a child support order, one parent must file a petition with the court that asks for either an increase or decrease in payments due to a significant change in circumstances since the last court order. Some of the most common reasons for a modification in child support includes a significant raise or title change for a parent, the loss of a job, responsibility for new children, or a change in the needs of the child. However, another potential reason to modify a child support order is the incarceration of the noncustodial parent.

If a modification is requested by the incarcerated parent for a change to the child support order, one of two options may be utilized for the change. The first is that the judge will reduce the child support obligation for the noncustodial parent during the length of the prison term. The second option is that the judge will suspend the child support payments until the parent is released from jail. One final option is that the court refuses the modification request and maintains the current child support payment as is.

Talk to a Virginia Divorce Attorney Today

If you want to learn more about child support, a local Virginia divorce attorney can help. Contact us today to learn more about your legal options.