Problems with Making Incarcerated Parents Pay Child Support

Child support helps divorced parents cover financial demands associated with their children’s health, education, and quality of life. While the system is set up to ensure assets and costs associated with a divorce are fairly split between a separated couple, it is far from a perfect system. If you are considering filing for a divorce or if you are already currently going through a divorce and need legal counsel, contact an experienced divorce attorney in San Diego, CA for a free legal consultation.

How Child Support Payments Work

California’s Child Support Services connects parents and guardians with the financial support they need. Following a divorce, courts will evaluate how much each spouse earns against the estimated cost of raising and caring for a child. Whether visitation and custody are split evenly or one parent takes the brunt of these responsibilities, the higher-earning spouse (or the one who plays a smaller role in raising the children) is legally required to make monthly payments that support his or her family.

Unfortunately, these expensive monthly payments cannot always be met. Parents face many consequences when they fail to do so. These can include:

  • Debt and interest
  • Frozen bank accounts
  • Wage garnishment
  • Incarceration

Problems for the Other Spouse

Though providing child support can be difficult, failing to pay puts a burden on the other parent. He or she may have to take on extra work or seek assistance from the state. Of course, this is not money happily given away; these expenses are added to what the supportive spouse already owes, and the state will do whatever it can to recover payments.

An Involuntary Problem

Any parent can find him or herself under a mountain of debt because of child support demands. Unfortunately, this presents a unique problem for those in prison. Incarcerated spouses are often completely unable to make payments. In some cases, they may not even know they are in debt until they are released. Here are a few factors that contribute to this problem:

  • Minimum wage in prison. In most states, the minimum wage for prisoners is around 23 cents an hour for a maximum 40 hours per week. Over a ten-year prison sentence, a full-time worker would earn around $4,000 at that rate. Depending on how many children a divorcee has, he or she could owe over $100,000 by the end of his or her punishment.
  • Multiple children mean multiple payments. Spouses may have several divorces and dozens of kids from different mothers or fathers. When this is the case, they must provide a separate child support payment for each family. This increases monthly obligations and debt exponentially.
  • Cycle of debt and incarceration. Missing a payment or avoiding them completely has severe, repetitive consequences. When an individual comes out of prison under a heap of debt, he or she will have to deal with a low credit score, frozen bank accounts, and even a suspended driver’s license. These measures significantly affect people’s ability to find work, and if they continue to miss payments, they may be arrested again.

Many parents perceive this level of debt as so overwhelming that they do not even attempt to recover. However, some laws have passed in recent years that help incarcerated divorcees make their child support payments and stay on track financially.

Legal Solutions to This Complex Problem

The federal government recently passed new laws that forbid child support agencies from classifying incarceration as “voluntary.” This means they cannot bill incarcerated parents as they would others. While this may seem like a good solution, it is still a challenge.

Reducing child support payments and completing complex paperwork from prison is not easy. However, you can seek the help of a San Diego family attorney who understands these laws. If you were recently released from prison, a legal expert can help you realistically make child support payments, focus on positive family relationships, and reenter the community. Contact an attorney at Boyd Law to start today.