Child Support Payments and Incarcerated Single Parents

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No parent plans on going to jail but if you find yourself in that unfortunate situation there are a few things to know about how it will affect your child support payments. It may seem illogical but incarcerated parents can still be held responsible by the courts for outstanding child support payments. If you're looking at jail time and don't think you'll be able to make your payments you can ask the court to suspend your child support order. Whether you or your ex is the one who'll be serving time in jail you should probably reevaluate the child support order, prior to incarceration. Here is some more information about enforcing child support orders for incarcerated non-custodial parents:

Paying Child Support in Jail

An incarcerated parent who owes child support might be concerned about interest accruing on all outstanding child support payments during a prison term. In addition, prison systems are in a unique position to be able to locate child support obligors who have thus far been unaccounted for. An incarcerated parent who owes child support should ask the court to do one of the following:

  • Reduce child support orders during incarceration
  • Suspend child support orders during incarceration

The determination of whether a court will agree to a child support modification during a parent's incarceration is the judge's decision. A court may decide that the child support payments should remain the same during a parent's incarceration.

Child Support Enforcement Agencies Assistance to Incarcerated Parents

High child support payments may push child support obligors away from child support enforcement upon release from prison. However, there are many things that child support enforcement agencies do more than just take your money they can also assist parents in reintegrating after their incarceration. A child support enforcement agency should work with other government agencies to:

  • Ensure the non-custodial parent maintains a relationship with the child during incarceration
  • Assist in helping parents find jobs after incarceration
  • Provide education to non-custodial parents about their responsibility to their children
  • Offer paternity tests, if applicable

What Should an Incarcerated Non-Custodial Parent Do After Release From Prison?

After a non-custodial parent has been released from prison, the non-custodial parent should do the following:

  • Contact the child support enforcement agency that is involved with your case and ​informs them that your incarceration has ended
  • Inform a child support agency of your intention to seek employment
  • Reestablish contact with your children
  • After you've established employment, begin to make regular child support payments

If a parent is incarcerated and can pay child support, it is in the child's best interest for the parent to continue to make child support payments. However, if a parent cannot pay child support due to incarceration, a non-custodial parent should consider one of the alternatives, mentioned above. For more information about incarcerated non-custodial parents and child support obligations, speak with a qualified attorney that handles child support cases in your state or refer to your state's child support guidelines.