Changes to child support rules for prisoners

Minnesota residents who are paying or may someday pay child support might be interested in a change to child support laws that the Obama administration is putting in place. These changes will affect noncustodial parents who have been incarcerated.

President Obama has pushed since 2014 to reform the criminal justice system with the goal of easing inmates' transition from prison back to society. There are many burdens faced by former prisoners, and they are often struggling financially. Child support has historically been a particularly difficult burden for them. Although they make little to no income in prison, they were unable to change their child support orders. This resulted in them typically owing very large sums of child support upon their release.

After this change, states may no longer consider incarceration as voluntary unemployment. This may allow prisoners to dramatically reduce their child support costs if they are unable to make money while in prison. Since prisoners and new parents are often confused or misinformed about child support laws, states will also be required to notify both parents of their right to modify child support agreements if one of the parents is in prison for more than 6 months.

Modifying a child support order can sometimes be difficult. This is especially true if one parent opposes the changes. The changes in income that often occur when one parent becomes unemployed or ill are often grounds for an order modification request. Attorneys who are seeking one on behalf of a client will let the client know that if it is granted it will be prospective only, and it will not have any effect on amounts that are past due, however.

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