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Changes for child support during a Texas incarceration

In an attempt to change a system that some experts say can leave imprisoned parents who are paying child support with insurmountable debt, the Obama administration has issued new rules related to this issue. The rules, which have been long-awaited, address the problem created by policies in some states.

According to the new rules, incarcerated parents who are paying child support will be able to petition to lower the amount paid while incarcerated. The new rules mandate that actual circumstances be taken into account when setting the support amount, instead of the current practice of treating incarceration as voluntary unemployment. These new rules will actually help families and children as they should result in more stability in child support payments.

A 2010 survey showed that of the 51,000 federally incarcerated parents who were subject to child support orders, nearly half had fallen behind, and the average amount owed was close to $24,000. These large debts are very challenging for prisoners to overcome once released, leading some to commit crimes once again. The Obama administration is attempting to make it easier for prisoners to reenter society once they finish their sentences. Under the new legislation, states would also need to inform both parents of the availability of requesting changes to payment amounts if a parent is imprisoned for longer than six months.

While child support payments are meant to help children continue with the quality of life they were used to before the divorce, they are not meant to be punitive to the parent making the payments. The new rules would also, in theory, help parents continue to make payments even while in prison. A parent who is in a situation where one of the parents is incarcerated and the child support payment might change, might benefit from the guidance of a family law attorney to ensure payments will remain fair.

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Bruce Turner

In addition to his law degree, Bruce Turner has a master's degree in tax law and is Board Certified in Commercial Real Estate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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