While most inmates in California prisons have their child support obligations suspended when they are incarcerated for a certain amount of time, this is not the case in many other states. However, new regulations issued by the Obama administration will require all states to allow inmates to request a modification of support as well as letting both parents know that this is an option if the incarceration is for more than six months.
With many inmates, child support debts mount while they are in prison with no way to pay them. The parent might even be released from prison only to be sent back there because of these debts. Critics argue that this creates a cycle of reincarceration.
In 2010, the Obama administration found in a survey of federal prisoners that around 51,000 had child support obligations. The average debt was nearly $24,000, and about 29,000 prisoners had fallen behind on paying support.
There are other circumstances in which child support might be lowered including a job loss. A parent must go to court to ask for a modification or they will be required to continue paying the same amount. Child support is based on income but may also take things into account such as day care expenses, health expenses and other costs. Separate from child support, parents might also come to an agreement regarding expenses for extracurricular activities and other costs and may include this in their parenting agreement. For example, it might be particularly important to one parent that their child learn how to play a certain musical instrument or sport, and that parent might agree to take on those expenses. Other issues that do not deal with custody or support, such as bedtimes, might also be included in the parenting agreement.