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I owe child support and will be in prison for at least a year. Can my payments be reduced?

New Rules Could Help People Who Owe Child Support

Until recently, an incarcerated obligor (a person who owes child support) was required to pay the same amount while in jail or prison that he or she paid prior to incarceration. Now, obligors who will be incarcerated for 12 months or more can ask the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) to change the amount of support they owe. OCSS will recalculate the obligor's support obligation based on actual earning potential while incarcerated. As a result, many incarcerated obligors might have to pay less than $5 per month.

Unfortunately, there is no process for the courts or the prisons to let OCSS know about obligors in this situation. Individuals may tell OCSS if they are sent to prison for 12 months or more and request a change. Also, defense attorneys should make their clients and the agency aware. This chance to lower the amount of child support owed while incarcerated can greatly reduce the amount of support owed by a person when released. If an obligor does not owe back support when released, they will get to actually take home their full paycheck.

Obligors now also may have the chance to get limited driving privileges. An obligor cannot ask for these privileges until actually in contempt for failure to pay support. Currently, an obligor can have his or her driver's license suspended for failure to pay. This suspension lasts until support payments are made. The obligor also has to work with OCSS to pay the back amount owed. If the obligor still fails to pay child support, then he or she may be charged with contempt.

In order to get driving privileges, an obligor must have a copy of his driver's abstract from the Registrar of Motor Vehicles. He or she must also have a letter from his OCSS caseworker explaining the need for driving privileges. An OCSS caseworker, or other representative from OCSS, can also appear in person instead. OCSS will consider these requests for driving privileges on a case-by-case basis. Only obligors charged with contempt can request driving privileges.

This article was written by Legal Aid Senior Attorney Susan Stauffer and Family Law Summer Associate Emma Knoth and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

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