Possible changes to child support regulations for inmates

In one of his final acts before leaving office in January, President Barack Obama plans to ease child support obligations for prisoners in Texas and nationwide. The initiative is designed to relieve inmates of potentially crippling debt, making it easier for them to reenter society.

The new regulations have not been officially announced, but White House sources say the administration intends to help decrease the amount of child support that prisoners must pay while behind bars. Currently, many prisoners must continue to pay regular child support payments when they have little or no income. This can lead to huge debts that leave them financially crippled upon release. Most states now allow child support payments to be modified for prisoners. However, 14 states forbid it or make the process difficult. In late 2014, the Obama administration issued draft regulations that would require states to modify child support payments to reflect an inmates' actual income. The final draft rules, which were sent to the White House for review in July, have not yet been made public.

A 2010 survey by the Obama administration found that 51,000 federal inmates were paying child support behind bars. Of those inmates, nearly 29,000 were behind on their payments. The average child support debt for prisoners was around $24,000.

Texas parents who are having difficulty collecting child support payments from a noncustodial parent may benefit by speaking to a family law attorney. Legal counsel could help petition the court to enforce child support orders and collect delinquent payments needed for a child's everyday expenses, medical care and extracurricular activities.

Source: Reuters, "Obama plans overhaul of child support payment rules for prisoners," Ayesha Rascoe, Oct. 14, 2016

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