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Parents in prison can have child support payments lowered

The Obama administration recently put into effect a new federal regulation that will allow parents who are in prison to decrease their child support payments while incarcerated.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now requires that states notify all parents who are in prison for over six months that they have a right to a reduction in payments while they are incarcerated.

Many states have held that being incarcerated is not a valid excuse to miss child support payments. Prison is "voluntary impoverishment" according to these states. Some prisoners can be in arrears for tens of thousands of dollars before they are released. Most jobs in prisons only pay an average of about 20 cents per hour.

The Office of Child Support Enforcement says the new regulation is intended to keep fathers out of severe debt from their child support arrears so they won't be tempted to go back to a life of crime when released.

For parents who depend on child support payments each month, this is not good news. Republicans have said that it will simply push more single mothers onto welfare.

However, for those parents who are incarcerated, the lower payment amounts will surely be a positive change. They may see a possibility after their release of finally catching up with any payments that are behind.

If you pay child support or receive child support, an attorney can help you determine exactly how this regulation will affect you. An attorney can work to ensure that the lower payments are in place for those paying child support or to ensure that people who are due child support payments start receiving them as soon as possible after the other parent is released from prison.

Source: The Marshall Project, "Child Support Relief Coming for Incarcerated Parents," Eli Hager, Dec. 20, 2016

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