Can You Be Charged Child Support While You're Incarcerated?

Can You Be Charged Child Support While You’re Incarcerated?

Yes. You can and will be charged child support while you’re incarcerated. However, there are ways to lower or defer your payments.

Do you have to pay child support while you’re in prison?

Usually, yes. In the same way that you still have to pay child support after you lose your job, going to jail or prison does not release you from this responsibility. You must continue to pay it while you are in prison. In most cases, if you do not pay you can face legal penalties. You may also have to pay interest on any payments you miss.

What happens if you don’t pay child support while you’re incarcerated?

Failing to pay child support can be a serious offense. Governments have many ways to penalize you if you miss payments. While of the usual means of enforcement, such as suspending your driver’s license, won’t apply if you are in prison, many others will.

  • Fines and penalties. The state can fine you and charge you interest for missed child support payments.
  • Jail or prison time. If you fall behind far enough, the state can imprison you for missed payments. Because you are already incarcerated, this may mean adding time to your sentence.
  • Federal penalties. Federal law also allows the federal government to get involved if the situation is bad enough. They can charge you with a federal misdemeanor if you haven’t paid for more than a year or owe more than $5,000. This becomes a felony after two years or more than $10,000. However, these laws require that you have the ability to pay and willfully do not. This standard might be hard for the government to meet if you are in prison.

You still have to pay child support while you are incarcerated.
Image courtesy of Negative Space via Pexels

How can you prepare for child support before going to prison?

Preparing for paying child support before you go to prison can help you avoid extra penalties. There are a few things you can do to get ready.

  • Save money. You won’t earn enough from prison jobs to meet your obligations. If you can, start saving money now. You can use these funds to make child support payments while you are incarcerated.
  • Make banking arrangements. You will want someone responsible to have access to your account. Autopay is usually an option, but fixing mistakes from prison will be very difficult. If you can afford a lawyer to act on your behalf, this may be your best option. They are required to act in your best interests. If not, find someone you absolutely trust with your money and your freedom.
  • Ask for a modification. You are allowed to ask that your payments be modified. Going to jail or prison impacts your ability to make child support payments. And judges will consider that when deciding if they will grant your request. While this might not bring your payments down to zero, it can help. This process does take time, so try to get it done as soon as possible.
  • Change your mailing address. You will want confirmation that your payments are being made. You should be able to change your mailing address to your jail or prison address to make sure you receive confirmation. If you do so, also make sure you request that you receive your communication about child support by mail.

Image courtesy of Heike Mintel via Unsplash.

The Takeaway:

You do have to pay child support while you are incarcerated. However, you may be able to get your payments lowered due to your status as a prisoner. There are a few things you can do to prepare for this situation. Failure to make payments can result in serious legal and financial penalties.

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