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New Rules on Child Support Would Prevent Mounting Child Support Debt When Parents Are Imprisoned

Drew Duncan
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan and Cole, LLP

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1/21/2016
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The Obama administration has been drafting new regulations to modernize the rules governing the child support system. The goal of the rules is to boost regular, on-time payments, increase noncustodial parents’ income and employability, and increase the time noncustodial parents spend with their children. One way to do this would be to stop the mounting child support arrearage a noncustodial parent can incur while incarcerated.

These regulations are scheduled to be published early in 2016 and implemented in 2017. However, congressional Republicans have introduced legislation to block these regulations—even though the public comment on them so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

How the New Guidelines Could Affect Child Support Obligations

According to a report by the Washington Post, about half of the people in prison are parents and at least 1 in 5 of them owes child support. Their child support arrearage continues to mount while they are in prison because the amount they are required to pay remains unchanged. The new regulations propose the following:

  • Incarceration would be reclassified from voluntary unemployment to involuntary unemployment, allowing parents to reduce their child support obligations while they are in prison. They do not have this right in 14 states.
  • State agencies would be required to inform parents in prison of their right to seek a reduction of their child support obligations and encourage state agencies to automatically reduce their monthly child support.
  • Job training, job placement, bus fare, and other services would be provided to parents who face prosecution due to their child support arrearage.

Currently, many parents who owe huge support arrearages do not have large bank accounts or other assets to be garnished, so courts are imprisoning them for not paying their obligations. The goal of these new regulations would be to reduce child support arrearages that mount up when people are in prison and provide parents with the means to make consistent child support payments, which would also increase the time they spend with their children.

Do you believe these new regulations should be implemented? Share your thoughts in the comments.



Category: Family Law

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