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Obama administration changes prisoner child support rules

On Dec. 19, the Obama administration announced policy changes that could help prisoners in El Paso and nationwide avoid crippling child support debts. The regulations, which were crafted by the Administration for Children and Families, allow parents to seek lower child support payments when they are incarcerated.

The changes are designed to help parents avoid leaving prison with insurmountable debts that can lead to reincarceration if they are not paid. Currently, some states categorize incarceration as "voluntary unemployment", which stops parents from modifying their existing child support orders when they enter prison. The new rules would end this practice and also require states to notify both parents of the right to seek child support modifications if either parent has been imprisoned for more than six months.

The Obama administration first proposed the changes in late 2014. In 2010, an administration survey found that 51,000 federal prisoners were paying child support, and almost 29,0000 were behind on their payments. The average debt owed was $24,000. It is unknown whether the incoming Trump administration will oppose the new rules. Some Republicans have pushed back against the new regulations, claiming that they would allow parents to avoid their child support obligations.

Parents who have difficulty collecting child support may find relief by contacting a family law attorney for guidance. Legal counsel could recommend the best methods for collecting the debt and find a solution that is in the best interests of the child. Likewise, parents who need to modify their existing child support order may benefit by speaking to an attorney about their case.

Source: Reuters, "Obama administration revamps child support rules for prisoners," Ayesha Rascoe, Dec. 19, 2016

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