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New rule set to limit child support obligations for prisoners

Texas parents may be interested in learning that in December, the Obama administration formalized a rule designed to reduce the amount of child support debt that people have to pay while they're imprisoned. In 2010, more than 50,000 federal prisoners had child support obligations, and approximately 29,000 of them were in arrears.

The new rules were actually put forth for consideration near the end of 2014, but some legislators are on the record as opposing their implementation. Although opponents maintain that the rules will make it easier for parents to shirk their financial duties, advocates say that they can help create better conditions for children by reducing the rate at which parents accumulate unsustainable child support debts that end up putting them back in prison.

The regulations were designed by the Administration for Children and Families. If adopted as intended, they'll provide mechanisms that prisoners can use to reduce the amount of support they have to pay while they're in prison. They also forbid states from classifying incarcerated parents as being voluntarily unemployed and stopping them from modifying their child support orders. Finally, states will have to advise both parents of their rights to pursue child support payments in the event that either parent is incarcerated for more than six months.

Child support can become one of the more divorce legal issues when non-custodial parents fall behind in their obligations. There are a variety of enforcement mechanisms that can be sought, but attorneys will tell their clients that they cannot unilaterally cut off visitation rights solely due to a failure to receive what they are owed.

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