For many years, low-income parents paying child support have faced a vicious cycle. Failure to meet your obligation usually meant an instant warrant for your arrest. If you were sent to jail, you were likely expected to pay the outstanding balance of support while continuing to make new monthly payments. That resulted in a scenario in which incarcerated parents incurred further debt upon their release.
In short order, many struggling California parents were sent back to prison because of the unpaid new debts, digging a deeper financial hole with each trip behind bars. However, new regulations allow some relief for incarcerated parents owing child support payments. If proven effective, parents facing prison for failure to pay child support may be able to break the cycle of debt and incarceration.
New regulations offer relief
At the end of his administration, President Obama put into effect a new regulation mandating that states must set realistic amounts for child support when the non-custodial parent has limited or no income. What this means for residents of California is that if the parent paying support will be incarcerated for longer than 90 days, a petition can be made to child support agencies to reduce the monthly required payment to $0 for the duration of their time served. Instead of accruing high amounts owed while they are unable to earn a wage in prison, individuals will re-enter public life better able to meet their obligations upon release.
Prison library is a resource
Part of the regulation states that access to the petition must be provided to inmates. California law requires that the forms to be made available in prison libraries. Child support agencies must provide outreach to the non-custodial parent as well, such that the request to reduce payments is not lost in administrative red tape.
Help to break the cycle
The true intent behind the new regulation is to lower the rate of re-incarceration for non-custodial parents with low to no income. Individuals who are generally law abiding but struggle to stay current with child support payments will have a better chance of staying out of jail and staying employed, thus better able to support their children.
If you are finding it hard to meet your child support payments and earn a low income, you may be able to work with the court system to lower the amount required and avoid becoming one more parent behind bars. Find out more about this new regulation when you contact an attorney versed in family law.