For many parents who are incarcerated in Pennsylvania, child support obligations are a major issue. Since people who are in prison make very little money, many of them leave prison facing thousands of dollars in back child support debt. As a part of criminal justice reform, the Obama administration is working to finalize rules that would help to prevent inmates from leaving prison with astronomical child support debt.
Currently, 14 states do not allow inmates to modify their child support orders while they are in custody or make it very difficult to do so. The president is concerned because inmates who face thousands of dollars in back support when they leave prison are likely to be reincarcerated and have greater difficulty finding employment.
A survey that was completed by the government in 2010 found that 29,000 inmates in federal prison were behind on child support at an average debt balance of $24,000. The administration is working to force states to allow inmates to seek modifications of child support based on their current incomes in custody. Many inmates make less than $100 per month while they are in prison.
Courts design support orders to satisfy the best interests of the child involved. Among the relevant factors the court takes into consideration are the relative incomes of each parent and the number of overnights each will have with the child. A family law attorney may help his or her client with securing child support orders. In the event that a person's financial situation changes, a lawyer may work to help secure a modification.