In his final month in the White House, President Barack Obama issued several hundred regulations. One of them called on states to assess realistic child support payments on those who are poor or incarcerated. A 2006 federal study of nine states found that 70 percent of those who were behind on their child support made $10,000 or less per year.
Their child support obligations accounted for 83 percent of their total income. Those who are unable to pay their child support may find themselves in jail, and they may still find themselves unable to pay their debts when they get out. Ultimately, the regulation wanted to avoid incarceration cycles for poor parents. It states that courts cannot treat incarceration as voluntary unemployment, and it requires courts to use reported income and other evidence to establish child support payment amounts.
According to the Supreme Court, jailing parents for failing to pay support without assessing their ability to pay violates their due process rights. Although it is not known whether the Trump administration will revisit this regulation, it does have the support of the National Child Support Enforcement Association. The Child Support Program collects over $32 billion annually for the benefit of 16 million children.
Those who owe child support may want to talk with an attorney as soon as possible. While a noncustodial parent will still be responsible for amounts in arrears, legal counsel could help a noncustodial parent file a motion for a payment modification in order to make it easier to keep up with future support obligations. An attorney may point to a job loss or other relevant factors as reasons why the modification request should be granted by the court.