New Law May Allow Incarcerated Parents to Delay Child Support Payments

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Non-custodial parents who are incarcerated are typically required to continue paying child support while they're in jail, even though they may not have sources of income to do so. More often than not, this results in parents incurring tens of thousands of dollars of child support. However, changes in legislation set to take effect in the next few years may allow parents to put child support obligations on hold until they're released. Here's more information about this development.

Make Incarceration Considered Involuntary

You can have a child support order reduced or suspended if you can demonstrate you have had a significant change in circumstances that has impacted your ability to earn income. While being in jail would fit this requirement, many states don't recognize incarceration as an involuntary condition. For example, Ohio considers parents who are in jail to be voluntarily unemployed. As a result, parents who attempt to have support orders adjusted or suspended are often denied.

However, new regulations set to go into effect by 2017 would classify incarceration as involuntary, overriding policies in states like Ohio that make jailed parents ineligible for child support adjustments. Additionally, child support enforcement agencies would be required to notify parents they have the right to reductions, and any money collected would be transferred directly to the custodial parent instead of passing through the agency.

Money will also be invested into providing job training and other services to help incarcerated parents become employable.

What to Do Now About Child Support

As mentioned previously, the legislative changes aren't set to go into effect until 2017. Unfortunately, parents who are already incarcerated (or set to be so) need help with their child support payment issues right now. There are a few options available to you. If you have no income because of your incarceration, you can request the court suspend the child support order until your release date. This is the best option because this will prevent you from leaving jail with tens of thousands of dollars in fees and interest.

However, about 14 states have policies like Ohio and do not consider incarceration to be an involuntary condition. So getting the support order suspended may not be an option available to you. It's best to consult with an attorney about the laws in your state to see if they support this maneuver.

The other option is to request the child support order be amended to a lower amount. While you'll still accumulate a balance during the time you're in jail, it may not be as big as if you let the support order go unchallenged.

To take advantage of either option, you would need to file the request with the same family court that created the child support order. Since your movements are severely restricted while in jail, you'll need to make alternative arrangements to attend the required hearings. Some courts will let you attend the hearings by telephone or video chat. Another option is to give someone you trust power of attorney to handle legal matters on your behalf.

A third option would be to negotiate with the custodial parent to put off paying the child support until you get out of jail. This may not be possible if the state monitors your payments as is usually the case if you're already behind on payments or the custodial parent has applied for public assistance. Additionally, the other parent may only be willing to do this if the time you're in jail is short.

There may be other things that can help you manage child support payments while incarcerated. Visit resources like to learn more about your options.