Of the 2.2. million people in the United States currently in prison, roughly half are parents. Connecticut residents may be surprised to hear that one in five of those individuals are responsible for child support payments. This can become a very difficult responsibility to live up to when behind bars, and it can cause financial strain on the family left outside.
While prisoners in the American prison system are able to earn a wage while in prison, the median wage is only 20 cents an hour. Based on this math, over the course of a ten-year prison sentence, an inmate can be expected to earn just over $4,000, but child support payments for two children during that time (averaged at $386/month) would amount to some ten times that earning. However, this may be about to change.
The Obama administration has introduced new regulations reclassifying incarceration as an involuntary state. This means that inmates may not be responsible for child support payments while serving their time. However, congressional Republicans are staunchly opposed to these measures, suggesting that they allow parents to abrogate responsibility for their children while incarcerated.
Child support can be a complicated topic to begin with, as some Connecticut residents are already aware, but the added complication of a parent in prison could make matters even worse. It is important for the custodial parent to have a full understanding of how child support will work in his or her unique situation, especially if his or her spouse or former spouse is incarcerated. This can make a huge difference to the lives of children already growing up in an unusual situation.
Source: The Washington Post, “For men in prison, child support becomes a crushing debt”, Eli Hager, Oct. 18, 2015