In California, some parents are incarcerated after court orders have been issued requiring them to pay child support to their children’s other parents. This has led to parents exiting prison facing substantial amounts of debt that they are unable to pay. On Dec. 19, President Obama’s administration released rules that are aimed at reducing the amounts of child support debt that inmates owe upon their release.
The regulations were issued by the Administration for Children and Families. They require states to set child support orders according to the actual financial circumstances of the families rather than treating the parents’ incarceration as voluntary unemployment and imputing income to them. The rules also say that states must let inmates who have child support orders to seek modifications of the orders in order to reduce the amounts while they are in prison if they are incarcerated for longer than six months.
The rules are meant to prevent the reincarceration of ex-inmates because of their inability to repay large amounts of child support debt that have built up while they are in prison. A 2010 study found that the average amount owed by federal prisoners was $24,000.
Delinquent payments of child support may result in several penalties, including jail time, wage garnishments and liens. People whose financial circumstances have substantially changed since their child support orders were issued might want to get help from a family law attorney. The preferred way would be to file a motion for modification with the court that has jurisdiction over the matter. It should be noted that if one is issued, it will apply only to future payments and will not affect any past due amounts.