If you are a noncustodial parent in Florida who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail or prison, you’re probably wondering if you’ll still be expected to pay child support. This is a valid question indeed and one that should be addressed promptly.
“With virtually no income, inmates who owe child support often leave prison with overwhelming debt—between $10,000 and $110,000 for each of them, according to a Marshall Project study of noncustodial parents in 10 states,” Jane Hoback wrote in the article, “Behind Bars, Behind Payments.”
Ms. Hoback went on to discuss how Lynne Haney, a sociology professor at New York University published a study on child support and incarcerated parents. Ms. Haney happened to interview inmates in Florida, California and New York, and each inmate owed about $35,000 in child support arrears. Haney called in an “enormous problem” that was “mind-boggling.”
Incarceration Does Not Stop Child Support Obligations
Each state handles child support and incarceration differently, though many states operate like Florida. Under Florida law, being incarcerated does NOT relieve a noncustodial parent of their child support obligation.
However, if a noncustodial parent’s income is interrupted because of incarceration, it may count as a substantial change in circumstances. In this case, the court may allow the noncustodial parent to modify their monthly child support obligation so it reflects their current income (or lack of it) and circumstances. If you have been sentenced to time behind bars, you should explain to the family court how the incarceration will change your ability to earn income and receive benefits, and how it may affect your ability to earn money during your incarceration, and after your release.
Can Payments Be Eliminated?
“Can my payments be eliminated while I’m in jail or prison?” That is highly unlikely, however, it may be wise to ask the court to suspend your payments while you’re incarcerated or reevaluate the situation after your release. You can also ask for lower payments or a payment extension. In any case, the family court should hold a hearing after you’re released so you can evaluate your financial situation and discuss your options.
Child support is not retroactive. Meaning, if you do nothing and stop making your payments, the court can’t go back and reduce what you owe. Your best option is to contact our Boca Raton family law firm at once to discuss filing a petition for a downward modification of your child support obligation. Time is of the essence, so don’t delay.