Fathers in Minnesota who have child support obligations often fall into a debt trap when they are incarcerated. While in prison, most fathers are unable to continue making their payments, and many face going back to jail or prison if they can’t pay off the debt once they get out of prison. Now, incarcerated fathers will be allowed to pause their child support obligations until they are released.
The new federal child support regulations were announced in October and will go into effect in 2017. To qualify for relief in child support obligations, fathers will have to file paperwork to prove that they are incarcerated involuntarily. There could be many fathers affected by this change, as one out of every five fathers in prison have child support obligations.
There has been some criticism of the new child support regulations from people who argue that the change will burden the welfare system. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch said that child support helps to keep single mothers off of welfare, and allowing fathers to abdicate their responsibilities would mean more mothers would have to apply for assistance. On the other hand, a poverty expert from the Center for Family Policy and Practice said that when poor fathers are billed for child support, all the billing results in is debt.
Even if they have never been incarcerated, some fathers are unable to make child support payments because they simply can’t afford to. A father in this situation may want to talk to a lawyer about petitioning for a modification to the child support order. A lawyer may be able to help the client argue that the original child support order was unrealistic or there has been a significant change in the father’s income.