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What happens to my child support if I go to jail?

Being the paying parent in a child support order is a big responsibility. The other parent often relies on these payments coming on time and in full to ensure that the children receive basic necessities such as food, clothing and school supplies. However, even parents who are very committed to their child support obligations sometimes have unfortunate circumstances arise which can make it very difficult or impossible to continue making child support payments. One of these is being incarcerated.

When parents are incarcerated, it is usually very difficult for them to keep up their child support payments. Even if the parents gets a job during their stay, the prison workers get paid so little that nearly impossible to get enough money to even make partial payments. Currently, this means that the child support payments keep stacking up, and the payor ends up in arrears.

Once this happens, there are additional fees and the monthly support obligation can even be increased temporarily in an attempt to get the parent caught up. Of course, this all means very little when the payor has no way of bringing in additional income. The result of this system is that the payor leaves prison with a significant amount of debt to the child support agency.

However, new legislation may be attempting to bring this cycle to the end, and states across the country are expected to enact a new system in 2017 that would let parents pause their child support payments while they serve their terms. Until this happens, parents may be able to talk with a family law attorney about the possibility of a child support modification.

Source: The Marshall Project, "For Men in Prison, Child Support Becomes a Crushing Debt," Eli Hager, accessed Nov. 20, 2015

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