Illinois parents who are incarcerated will be able to file for a modification of child support under a rule that Barack Obama signed and which went into effect on Jan. 19. So far, the Trump administration has not indicated that it plans to roll the law back although this may change when more positions within the administration are filled.
Because some states considered people who were incarcerated to be voluntarily unemployed, incarcerated parents were not able to get their child support reduced due to a change in circumstances despite having very little or no income. In some cases, this would result in the parent accumulating a significant child support that they would then be unable to pay once they were released. The parent would then be returned to prison due to nonpayment of support, and the cycle would resume. These laws remained in place in more than a dozen states despite the findings of the U.S. Supreme Court that parents' due process rights were potentially being violated.
While some in Congress opposed the law allowing for the modification, it was supported by the National Child Support Enforcement Association. Research shows that some lapses in child support payments may be due to a parent's poverty with a 2006 study finding that more than two-thirds of parents who owed child support earned $10,000 or less annually.
Parents who do need to ask for a modification in support should do so promptly since they will still have the same obligations until a court rules otherwise. A legally binding agreement for child support gives a parent the ability to go through local or state child support enforcement programs in order to collect support. There are a number of steps that may be taken before incarcerating a parent who is not paying support including garnishing wages or tax refunds and revoking licenses.