Child support payments can be difficult to keep up with for many non-custodial parents. For parents who are incarcerated, child supports payments can not only be difficult, but an ever-growing burden about which they can do little to nothing.
Experts say the child support debt some parents face upon release from prison can make them less likely to pay upon release, potentially damaging their relationship with their children.
According to director of the Denver-based Center for Policy Research, Jessica Pearson, over half of inmates in state and federal prisons have children under the age of 18, and half of those inmates have open child-support cases. On average, inmates will enter prison owing around $10,000 in child support and be released owing twice that amount.
When a non-custodial parent goes to prison, though, things really can get tough for custodial parents, who are often forced to go on welfare, move in with relatives, or take several jobs.
Some states, like Tennessee, consider incarceration "voluntary unemployment," and do not allow incarcerated parents to get their child support orders modified while in prison. The rationale behind such laws is that children should have to be penalized for their non-custodial parent's actions, and the parent should not be rewarded for their behavior. Other states, like Texas and Massachusetts, allow inmates to modify child support payments to a minimum payment ranging from $20 to $80 per month. Some states, like Connecticut, allow the complete elimination of payments while an inmate has no income.
Connecticut's director of support enforcement services said the rationale behind such laws is that parents are more likely to pay if the child support orders are realistic.
In our next post, we will keep looking at this issue.
Source: Associated Press, "Conn. to help inmates pare child-support bills," 1 May 2011.