What Happens to a Person’s Child Support Obligation if they Go to Jail or Prison?

“Current estimates of the number of children with incarcerated parents vary. One report found that the number of children who have experienced parental incarceration at least once in their childhood may range from 1.7 million to 2.7 million. If this estimate is on target, that means 11 percent of all children may be at risk.”

So what happens to the child support obligations of these incarcerated persons? The meter keeps running!

For example, say a father owes monthly child support for $500 per month to his ex-wife in child support. If this father becomes incarcerated, his duty to support the child is not stayed. Every month which passes without full payment, his obligation accrues into what is know as “arrearage.” If he fails to pay child support for twelve months as a result of his incarceration, he would owe an arrearage of $6000 plus interest. (Interest is 7.5% from the date due.)

Typically, when arrearage accrues like this, a Petition for Contempt is filed. In my experience, a court will not hold someone in contempt for failing to pay due to incarceration. However, once they are released and no payments are received, a contempt petition may be forthcoming. At a minimum a judgment will be rendered for the accrued arrearage and a payment (over-and-above the basic child support) will be required.