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Child support payments and incarceration

Many California non-custodial parents have been ordered to pay child support. When they are sent to prison, this does not release them from their obligation. Rules that are under consideration by the Obama administration would allow their child support payments to be modified.

Most states currently allow the modification of child support payments when a parent who is paying child support goes to prison, but 14 do not or make it difficult to obtain. Opponents of the proposed changes say that it would allow convicts to escape their obligation to their children, while supporters point to the debts prison inmates incur when they are forced to make child support payments that they cannot afford while incarcerated. A survey conducted in 2010 found that 51,000 federal prisoners were required to pay child support, and approximately 29,000 of them were behind on their payments.

Supporters of prisoner child support modification say that without it, people who are released are in debt or facing new charges for failure to make child support payments, a failure that is often attributable to the fact that their income while in prison decreased or completely disappeared. In 2014 the Obama administration issued draft regulations that would require state courts to set prisoners' child support payments based on a prisoner's actual income.

California child support guidelines payments in California take into account the income of each parent, and this may include income not actually earned but believed to be earnable. In other words, if one parent has evidence that the other parent could be earning more income than he or she currently is, that evidence could be introduced and the court might allow it to be factored into the final child support amount.

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