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Child support and incarceration: Important facts to know

What happens to your child support obligation when you're incarcerated? This is something that confuses a lot of people -- and can lead to serious additional complications that can make it harder to get back on your feet once you've served your sentence unless you handle the issue correctly.

Here are the most important facts you need to know:

1. Your obligation to pay support doesn't stop just because you were incarcerated. Many people assume that the court system, being aware that they are incarcerated, makes the next logical leap and recognizes that it isn't usually possible to continue paying the support when you're behind bars.

However, that isn't the case. For some inmates, those who have exceptional resources or investments that aren't affected by their incarceration, it isn't even true.

If you're like most inmates, however, and your income essentially stopped once you went to prison, you need to file the appropriate paperwork requesting an adjustment of your child support payments.

2. If you don't file the appropriate forms asking to stop your child support, you will continue to owe past-due child support and a 10 percent penalty for the past-due amounts.

This could create a significant financial burden that would be hanging over your head once you're released, making it harder than ever to recover from the period of incarceration. Your initial paychecks could easily be taken for past-due support, leaving you with few options.

It's important to note that your support order can only be modified back to the date of your request -- so don't delay your action thinking that the judge can simply make the order retroactive to the date you became incarcerated.

3. Unlike some other states, California does not treat incarceration as an act of voluntary unemployment, so incarceration itself is considered enough of a change in material circumstances to get support suspended during your incarceration -- as long as you will be incarcerated 90 days or longer.

If your period of incarceration is less than 90 days, you'll need to show the court some other reason that the support should be suspended.

Source:, "The Basics Of Child Support For Incarcerated Parents," accessed June 01, 2017

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