Many Pennsylvania parents struggle to pay child support, especially when they make less than $10,000 a year. According to a study from the Urban Institute, about 70 percent of all child support debt in the U.S. is owed by parents who fit in this category. Even so, the consequences for owing child support can be severe, including jail time.
African American fathers find the child support system to be particularly hard, as they also often have to deal with the stereotype that they are neglectful parents. In many cases, they cannot afford a lawyer, meaning they may not know their options Because they may not realize that they can have their child support reassessed when their financial situations change, they risk going to jail because they simply cannot pay the amount that they owe.
Having a parent go to jail is often damaging to the child as well. Not only does it perpetuate the image that a parent who goes to jail over child support does not want to pay, but it also prevents the parent from being able to work to earn any sort of income. Further, the child misses out on having a father who may have been able to support him or her in other ways.
While custodial parents often rely on child support after a divorce to provide for their child’s needs, there are cases where the parent responsible for making monthly payments suddenly has a change in financial circumstances. This may prevent the parent from being able to afford the payments. If he or she does suddenly stop making payments, the legal consequences could be severe. However, a family law attorney may help request a modification of the child support order until the parent’s finances improve.