Parents with child support obligations are often unaware that child support accrues while incarcerated, leaving them with significant debt upon release. In fact, the average debt for parents formerly incarcerated is $20,000 to $36,000.1 This debt can make your community reintegration more challenging. So, how can you fulfill your financial obligations to your family, ensure your well-being, and stay out of jail?
Reentry program managers, Carlos C. and Yadira S., share their experience working with justice-involved individuals. Below they’ve answered some frequently asked questions. Read more to learn about the resources available to you.
What is Child Support?
Parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for their child(ren). A court may order parents to make regular support payments to cover their child(ren)’s living and medical expenses, and this is why the payment is called child support. Child Support Handbook
Do I Still Have to Make Child Support Payments If I Was Previously Incarcerated?
The short answer is yes. No parent plans on spending time in jail or prison, but if you’ve faced this unfortunate situation, it’s important to know how it will affect your child support payments. Upon release, your responsibilities as a parent, including child support payments, will be reinstated. In some cases, the required payment never stopped while incarcerated.
What Steps Can I Take to Be Responsible for My Child?
Contact your local child support office, and make an appointment to visit. Ask what documentation you will need to bring with you which may include a valid ID, proof of address, your child(ren)’s birth certificate, proof of income, evidence of past child support payments, and existing child support orders. The office can also help you fill out required forms and documents if you need to attend court.
Arrange how you will get to your appointment.
Create a support system.
Create SMART goals, and take the steps needed to achieve your goals.
How Can I Stay Positive?
For many, one of the greatest moments in life is bringing a child into the world. Think of the bond and love for your child. Rather than having a court remind you of your duties as a parent, change your mindset and take responsibility. Understanding your child(ren)’s basic financial needs and ensuring they are met is great motivation. You will also need to practice patience as the process may be lengthy, and each case is unique. Your local child support office will guide you and tailor their services based on your history to help you be successful in your child support case.
Best of luck in this new journey of yours, and welcome home!