When California noncustodial parents do not make child support payments, they can face enforcement measures that may include incarceration. However, many want to stay up-to-date on their child support payments, but they cannot afford to. If a noncustodial parent is incarcerated, they may continue to accrue debt while they are in jail.
Right before he left office, President Obama issued a regulation to prevent noncustodial parents from getting trapped in a cycle of incarceration simply because they are poor. The new rule went into effect on Jan. 19 and so far President Trump has not given any indication that he will repeal it. The child support rule was not among the many last-minute Obama regulations that were placed under review when Trump took office.
The new child support rule ensures that parents will not be considered to be voluntarily unemployed while they are incarcerated. Courts will also have to conduct a thorough assessment of a noncustodial parent’s ability to pay child support before a child support order is issued. According to a federal study on child support, 70 percent of parents that miss child support payments earn under $10,000 per year. Most of these low-income parents have been ordered to make child support payments that equal 83 percent of their income.
If a family court judge does not have all of the relevant information about both parents’ incomes and expenses, the child support order that is issued may not be appropriate. An attorney may be able to represent a parent during child support hearings and help to ensure that the judge understands what the parent’s income and monthly expenses are. Parents who become unable to meet their obligations due to an unexpected financial downturn may want to have an attorney’s support as well when seeking a modification of the order.