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New child support rule may benefit incarcerated parents

When a person is in jail in Louisiana, he or she has few resources to pay debts. In 2010, a study showed that over 50 percent of those incarcerated in federal prisons while ordered to make child support payments were behind in their obligations. That number has likely risen in the past six years. The average amount of child support debt among inmates is $24,000. While the current administration prepares to leave office, there is hope that something will be done to alleviate this burden for some prisoners.

Those who are ordered to make regular child support payments are not relieved of that obligation while behind bars. In fact, the debt often accumulates along with interest, fines and penalties. President Obama has drafted a bill requiring all states to allow modification of child support orders for prisoners. Child support payments would also be based on the actual income of an inmate. It is hoped that such measures will prevent the accumulation of crushing debt during a person’s incarceration.

While most states allow inmates to apply for modifications in child support orders, over a dozen do not. In fact, some states, including Louisiana, consider incarceration as voluntary unemployment, which is the same classification as a non-custodial parent who refuses to work in order to reduce the amount of child support owed. When a person is placed in this status, he or she may find it difficult to receive a modification from the court.

Custodial parents may oppose this new rule because it affects the amount of support they will be receiving if their supporter is incarcerated. However, proponents believe the children will be helped more by modified payments than by allowing the prisoner to accumulate a mound of debt that cannot be managed. Whether one is struggling to meet child support obligations or fighting to get court-ordered payments, having an attorney is beneficial in reaching a positive outcome.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Proposed Rules Could Ease Inmate Child-Support Payments“, Christopher Zoukis, Oct. 25, 2016

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