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Does Incarceration Impact Child Support Payments?

Child support is often a complicated matter, but certain issues can make it much more complex. Parental incarceration impacts many children, not only mentally and physically but also financially. Children with at least one parent behind bars lack the stability other children may have. Currently, about 2.7 million children have at least one parent behind bars in America.

If your child’s mother or father faces time behind bars, will they still owe child support? How long do they have after the fact to pay child support once they are out? Read on to learn more about what will happen.

Incarceration Does Not Automatically End a Legal Obligation

Simply because somebody is sentenced to prison or jail time does not let them off the hook for child support or even alimony. Any obligations for child support are suspended for a period of time, though the suspension may not last the entire sentence.

To modify a child support agreement, the court must agree to a modification in special circumstances, and incarceration may be an acceptable reason for modification since incarceration is likely to change the parent's income. This decision must be made in court.

If the incarcerated spouse does not pay child support he or she is ordered to, the non-incarcerated spouse has 20 years to pursue payment in civil court beginning at the age the child is deemed emancipated, which typically occurs at the age of 18.

Incarceration Does Not Always Mean Modification Is Guaranteed

Some people earn money based on something other than a wage or salary, and incarceration may not impact the amount of money they make. All of the parent's assets, savings, royalties, dividends, and even rental income help the courts calculate child support. If the same amount of money is coming, the courts could decide not to modify child support.

The court's responsibility is to gather a comprehensive view of each parent's financial situation before arriving at a decision about child support payments. The court will not make a hasty decision without considering obligations in addition to assets.

Incarceration Does Not Set Obligations in Stone

Once modifications are made to a court order for child support, the non-incarcerated parent can have the order modified again in the future if the other parent's ability to pay changes. If the parent is released from prison and gets a job, the other parent can file a motion to modify support, keeping in mind that the court will make a decision based on what the other parent can reasonably afford.

Keep in mind that sometimes the court will give the formerly incarcerated parent some time to get back on their feet and recover from the time he or she spent in prison. Some parents may decide to delay finding a job, and the court can also determine that this individual is in contempt of court.

Incarceration Means the Non-Incarcerated Parent Needs to Act

The non-incarcerated parent needs to review all modification requests and orders quickly. Contesting changes that don't seem right is crucial, especially for the best interests of the child. Gathering evidence, including evidence of other financial obligations being reduced, may be useful.

If incarceration becomes an issue in your parenting and child support plan, you need somebody to rely on. Pursuing a case can be difficult, and you need legal support to ensure you are doing the best for your child.

The Law Offices of Thomas Marola offers family legal services. If you or your child's parent are at risk for incarceration, you need to discuss the future of child support to ensure that the child is taken care of and that each parent meets his or her financial obligations. Call us today.

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