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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Tennessee prisoners may get better child support options

In December 2016, President Obama's outgoing administration published new child support rules created by the Administration for Children and Families. The guidelines, which originally dated back to 2014, are designed to minimize the amount of child support that prisoners have to pay while they are incarcerated. Lawmakers who are in favor of this concept hope that the change will stop states from saddling parents with large debts and reincarcerating them for their failure to pay after they serve their original sentences.

The measure, however, is not without opposition, and it may not survive the next presidential administration. Republicans have previously argued that the rules might make it easier for parents to sidestep their responsibilities. The new legislation is part of a broader push for national criminal justice reform, and it may help the tens of thousands of federal prisoners who are overdue on their child support orders.

Under the new rules, states will be prohibited from taking actions like barring prisoners from trying to modify their child support arrangements by classifying them as voluntarily unemployed individuals. In the case that either of a child's parents is incarcerated for periods that are more than six months, the state will also be held responsible for letting both parents know that they can request modifications.

Although certain laws may be changing, failing to comply with a child support order can still result in severe penalties. These situations may occur when parents simply refuse to be responsible, but they might also be the result of uncontrollable circumstances, such as employment termination or unforeseen medical emergencies. In the latter case, it could be advisable to have legal assistance when seeking a modification of the amount.

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