Proposed federal rule could keep full child support obligations running for some incarcerated people
By Gretchen Schuldt
The federal Children and Families Administration is proposing to make it easier for states to keep full child support obligations in place while some debtor parents are incarcerated, likely leading to increased debt when they are released.
The change would apply to those incarcerated as a result of not paying child support or those who committed a crime in which the victim was a dependent child of the offender or receiving child support from that person.
The proposal would allow states to levy the larger obligations even if doing so risks increasing the risk of debt or even recidivism for affected incarcerated people, according to CFA.
Under current rules, child support payment amounts can be adjusted if a parent experiences a major change in circumstances. For example, a parent who is severely injured and is unable to work likely would qualify for reduced child support payments, while a person who wins a $1 million lottery might have to pay more in child support.
Voluntarily leaving a job is not considered a major change, meaning that a parent who simply quits a job likely would not qualify for lower child support obligations.
Federal regulations now flatly prohibit states from considering incarceration to be voluntary unemployment. The rule is designed to reflect an incarcerated person's actual ability to pay and to prevent accumulation of child support arrears.
The proposed rule would allow states the option of imposing full child support obligations on incarcerated who meet the either of the two child-related criteria.
"Some states, based on moral and societal values of justice and fairness, may reasonably determine that persons found guilty of intentional nonsupport, or who show a disregard for the well-being of the custodial parent or child by abusing them, should not benefit from those acts by having their child support obligation suspended or reduced while incarcerated for those crimes – even if that policy risks accumulation of arrears, child support debt, and recidivism," CFA said in its public notice of the proposed change.
CFA is accepting comments on the proposed rule through Nov. 16, 2020. You can make a comment here.
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