Anyone can be arrested for a criminal offense; it’s not uncommon for normal, everyday people to be charged with DWI, domestic violence, drug possession, assault, or even a white collar crime, such as tax evasion or healthcare fraud.
Since anyone, including mothers and fathers can be accused of breaking the law, it’s exceedingly common for noncustodial parents to be arrested, charged, and subsequently convicted of a crime.
“Will I still have to pay child support while I’m incarcerated?” is a question that comes up a lot with our clients who are noncustodial parents, which we’re going to address below.
Incarceration Doesn’t Stop Child Support Obligations
Child support does not automatically stop because a mother or father finds themselves sentenced to jail or prison, though many parents wish it did. Incarceration is viewed much like unemployment: a jail or prison sentence does not relieve noncustodial parents of their obligation to support their children.
So, what is a noncustodial parent to do if they are sentenced? Fortunately, if they do not have the assets to continue paying child support, they can ask the family court for a modification. However, this petition must be filed as soon as possible otherwise the child support arrears will continue accruing and the court cannot go back and reduce the amount owed.
Asking for a Downward Modification
If you are sentenced to jail or prison and you cannot afford to pay child support because of the interruption in employment, you have experienced a significant “change in circumstances,” which means there is a good chance the family court will modify your existing support order.
Our advice is to file the petition for a downward modification as soon as you learn that you’ll be incarcerated. If the modification is approved by the family court, the court will be able to change the amount owed as of the date the petition was filed, but it won’t be able to do it any sooner. If you fail to obtain a modification and you stop paying child support, you could face a series of collection actions, such as license suspension, seizing your bank account, and more.