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Incarceration for Non-Payment of Child Support

Guidelines Reguarding the Incarceration of Parents for Child Support Non-Payment


Handcuffed man standing in courtroom
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For non-custodial parents who owe back child support, a court may decide to hold the parent in contempt and incarcerate the parent, at the court's discretion. Here is some more information about enforcing child support payments and incarceration:

Incarceration of Non-Custodial Parents for Non-Payment of Child Support

If a court finds a person to be behind in child support payments, the court may have a parent arrested for non-payment. The period of time for incarceration is:

  • A minimum amount of time
  • The amount of time it takes to ensure the child support payments will be paid in the future (generally a maximum of 6 months)

Most courts will only consider incarceration after an attempt at collecting child support through other methods. Courts generally take the position that it is in the child's best interests to receive care and support from both parents.

Factors Considered Prior to Incarceration Due to Child Support Payments

There are several factors considered prior to a court's determination to incarcerate a person due to owed child support:

  • Amount of owed support
  • Reasons for non-payment (For example, if a father is questioning paternity, a court may decide not to hold a father in contempt until a paternity test is complete.)

Things to Consider During Non-Custodial Parent's Incarceration

Parents who are incarcerated for non-payment of child support should do the following during their incarceration:

  • Attend parenting classes
  • Maintain a relationship with the child
  • If not already established, establish an on-going relationship with the child's custodial parent
  • If the non-custodial parent is unemployed, try to obtain assistance from government agencies on release programs
  • If paternity has not been established, child support enforcement agencies and/or prison officials can assist with obtaining a paternity test.
  • Seek the assistance of child support enforcement officials in obtaining a child support modification, if needed.

For more information about incarceration due to current child support obligations, speak with a qualified attorney that handles child support cases in your state or refer to your state's child support guidelines.

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