Child Support Relief Coming for Incarcerated Parents
In the last days of the Obama administration, regulators quietly ease the child support burden on parents in prison.
Squeezing in an executive action just a month before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Obama administration on Tuesday quietly unveiled a new federal regulation that will allow incarcerated parents to lower their child-support payments while they are in prison.
The new rule, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, requires states to notify all parents incarcerated for more than six months of their right to ask the child support agency for a temporary reduction in payments.
As The Marshall Project reported in October 2015, many states have long considered incarceration a form of “voluntary” impoverishment, and therefore not a valid excuse for missing child-support payments. But jobs in state prisons pay a median wage of about 20 cents an hour, meaning that most incarcerated parents cannot feasibly pay the full amount of their child-support obligation — and end up tens of thousands of dollars in debt by the time they get out. (The best estimates indicate that one in five prisoners in the U.S. has a child-support order.)