Illinois parents who have custody of their children may be interested to learn that, based on new regulations that were issued by the Obama administration on Dec. 19, noncustodial parents who are incarcerated may be allowed to lower their child custody payments. Essentially, the rules were intended to help inmates avoid crippling debt that could cause them to become re-incarcerated.

The regulations would prohibit states from considering incarceration as being “voluntary unemployment”. Essentially, this means that inmates would be able to seek to modify their child support orders. The regulations aim to help children involved in the situation by giving inmates a better chance of being able to provide more reliable child support payments. Further, the regulations also will require states to notify both the custodial parent and the incarcerated parent that they are eligible to seek changes to the child support order if the incarceration lasts longer than six months.

While there is support for the regulations, there is also healthy opposition from some Republican lawmakers. They argued that the regulations would allow incarcerated parents to avoid their financial responsibilities to their children. It is not known if there will be opposition from the incoming Trump administration.

The failure to pay court-ordered support can result in significant penalties to a noncustodial parent. However, many parents who are not behind bars are truly unable to meet their obligations for a variety of reasons, including a medical emergency or an unexpected job loss. An attorney can in some cases be of assistance in seeking a modification of the support order due to such an adverse change in the obligor’s financial circumstances.