For Minnesota parents who become incarcerated, paying child support when they no longer earn an income can have detrimental effects on their ability to stay out of poverty. In some cases, parents find themselves heading back to jail because they do not have the financial ability to pay back their child support debt.

A rule that was issued by Barack Obama in his last month in office requires states to set child support payments that are more reasonable for these parents’ situations. By forcing states to reduce the child support payments for incarcerated parents, the parents are less likely to get stuck in a cycle of continuously returning to prison for nonpayment of child support while still accumulating more child support debt.

Data from a 2006 federal study showed that, in nine states, 70 percent of all the child support debt was owed by parents who make $10,000 or less a year. In many cases, the child support that they owe could equal up to 83 percent of their total income, meaning they likely live in poverty. The National Child Support Enforcement Association stated that they were in support of the rule.

If a parent cannot afford the child support that they were ordered to pay, a family law attorney may help them request a modification of the order. The attorney may provide the court with financial documents and other evidence that shows that the parent is currently not employed, lost a source of income or for other extenuating circumstances can no longer afford the payments. If the custodial parent uses nonpayment as an excuse to deny visitation, the attorney may also help the parent request that the parenting agreement be enforced.