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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

New policy will let jailed fathers suspend child support payments

The Obama administration has announced a new program that will allow incarcerated fathers in Tennessee and nationwide to defer their child support payments while they serve out their prison terms. The policy has been met with criticism from those concerned with the rights of single mothers and their children.

The new regulations, which will not be enacted until 2017, will allow jailed fathers to label their incarcerations as "involuntary." This will pause child support payment agreements and stop interest and late fees from racking up. According to media reports, around half of the 2.2 million people held in U.S. prisons are fathers, and 20 percent of those dads pay child support. Federal prisoners make between $.23 and $1.15 an hour, which makes it difficult to make child support payments. Further, once they are released, they could be sent back for failing to pay off the debts that accumulated when they were behind bars.

Some legislators fear the new policy could force more families into welfare due to the loss of child support payments. However, supporters of the new regulation claim that many incarcerated fathers are already unable to make payments from behind bars and adding penalty fees to their debt only makes the situation worse. Supporters also say most of the overdue child support payments fathers make from prison go back to the government in late fees, not to the mother or child.

Tennessee parents who have difficulty paying or receiving child support payments may benefit by speaking with an attorney. Legal counsel could carefully review the case and work to arrange a payment agreement that is in the best interests of the child.

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