North Carolina is among the 36 states to have passed laws that allow for the reduction of child support orders of noncustodial parents who are incarcerated, but spending time behind bars is considered voluntary unemployment in many parts of the country. Barack Obama addressed this issue during his last month in office, and his regulation, which went into effect on his last day of office, has yet to be reversed or suspended by his successor.
Obama took action to prevent noncustodial parents from facing large, and, potentially, unmanageable, child support obligations upon their release from prison. Under the rule, states are required to assess noncustodial parents’ financial situations and earnings before deciding how much they should pay. While Obama’s regulation has so far survived the Trump administration’s efforts to cut red tape, its future could be called into question should the Senate vote to approve Tom Price as the next U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services.
The rule has been supported by the National Child Support Enforcement Association, but House Speaker Paul Ryan introduced a bill to block it. A 2006 federal study found that 70 percent of the noncustodial parents who missed child support payments earned less than $10,000 per year, and a 2013 report from the Office of Child Support Enforcement revealed that these payments account for 40 percent of the household incomes of impoverished custodial parents.
Child support was introduced to hold noncustodial parents financially responsible for their actions and prevent children from becoming burdens on the state. Experienced family law attorneys may petition for child support amounts to be modified when one of the parent’s financial situation changes. Lawyers could also call upon investigators when noncustodial parents seek to avoid their obligations by living under false names or taking off-the-books jobs.