One often-overlooked effect of a parent’s prison sentence is the debt that they accumulate by missing child-support payments during their incarceration. In a way, the financial obligation resembles a large student-loan bill that explodes while someone attends college and cannot make payments. Except when repayment is required, the former prisoner is less able to earn a good wage than before.

To help families, Maryland has made some partial adjustments involving child support over the past five years. In 2012, the state passed a law allowing temporary reductions or suspensions in child support obligations for prisoners. Still, the mandated support after the parent is released reverts to the pre-incarceration level even though very few ex-convicts immediately return to their old job or pay rate. 

Some people are seeking a more comprehensive approach to the problem. Though the law provides some incentives, including debt relief, for individuals to make consistent payments, a realistic re-evaluation of the parent’s post-prison earning capacity might improve results.  The current law might be discouraging some parents looking to reconnect with their children. If a recently released prisoner knows he cannot make a mandated child support payment, he might choose to avoid the situation entirely for fear of being brought back to court. A revised rule could encourage parents to re-enter their children’s lives when they are willing to make a financial contribution consistent with their status as an ex-convict.

It’s easy to identify reasons to oppose any easing of prisoners’ child support requirements. Lowering the required payment can be seen as harming innocent children who already are coping with difficult circumstances. Moreover, since child-support orders are difficult to reduce for most people, it seems unfair to provide a financial benefit for someone who has committed a serious crime.

For assistance with any child support question, contact an experienced divorce attorney at Mudd, Mudd & Fitzgerald, P.A. in La Plata.