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  • Serving Delaware County, PA

Must You Pay Child Support if You Are Incarcerated?


No one plans on being incarcerated. Nevertheless, millions of parents in the United States go to jail each year, leaving behind children who continue to need their parent’s financial support.

At Barbara Flum Stein & Associates, we help parents navigate their child support obligations. Getting sent to prison for a simple mistake can happen to anyone and is not a reflection on your character. However, incarceration absolutely impacts your ability to pay child support.

Under Pennsylvania law, you can request a modification of your child support if you are incarcerated. The process is not automatic, unfortunately, so reach out to a Media child support attorney as soon as possible.

You Must Seek a Modification from the Court

Any unpaid child support continues to accrue as arrearages, which can earn interest. Someone with unpaid child support can see their arrearages rapidly increase in size, so it is vital to always stay on top of all support obligations.

Although Pennsylvania allows parents to seek a modification due to incarceration, the modification is not automatic. Instead, you need to file paperwork with the correct court, which is typically the court that entered the initial child support order. If you simply stop paying, then unpaid obligations will continue to pile up.

The Court Can Suspend or Terminate Your Child Support Obligation

Before agreeing to provide relief from your child support obligation, a court will take a look at the facts. For example, it matters why you are in jail. If you were jailed for refusal to pay child support, for example, then a judge won’t help you. However, if you are incarcerated for a different reason, then modification is possible.

A judge will also consider your income and assets. For example, you might have quite a bit of money saved in a bank account. If so, then the court might order that some of these assets be collected to pay child support while you are in jail. You might also have passive income which could be seized to pay child support, such as investment income or annuities. A judge won’t agree to suspend child support unless he or she is convinced that you cannot pay.

The Consequences of Inaction

Let’s say you don’t seek modification and child support piles up unpaid for a year while you serve your sentence. When you get out, you’ll owe more than you did going in. Also, the other parent can garnish your wages to get the arrearages paid off. This means you’ll be living on a radically reduced income until you get caught up.

Don’t think you can wipe out arrearages in bankruptcy, either. The bankruptcy code excluded family support obligations like child support from discharge. There is simply no way to get around paying what you owe to your children.

We Can Assist with a Child Support Modification

Our Delaware County family law attorneys at Barbara Flum Stein & Associates have helped many parents seek a temporary suspension of support obligations due to financial difficulty, including incarceration. Contact us today to learn more.

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