Many of our clients are unaware of the rules surrounding child support when they are incarcerated. Unfortunately, because they are unaware, their child support continues to accrue while they are behind bars. This can and will result in thousands of dollars of child support arrearages once they are released. However, DC law provides a solution to this problem. Under D.C. code § 23-112 (a), "at all sentencing proceedings in which an individual will be sentenced for period of imprisonment of more than 30 days, the sentencing court shall inquire as to whether the individual being sentenced has an existing child support order."
However, if the court does not inquire whether you have an existing child support order, you or your attorney must make the court aware that you do. Once the court is aware of this existing child support order, the court is required to explain to you that you may petition to modify or suspend the child support payments during the period of your imprisonment. Filing a petition to modify or suspend child support is not automatically granted. However, most court's honor (especially in D.C.) the fact that the individual being ordered to pay child support is unable to comply with the child support order.
D.C. code § 46-204, specifically states that "an order requiring payment of an amount of child support may be modified upon showing that there has been a substantial and material change in the ability of the responsible relative to pay since the day on which the order was issued." In other words, if your circumstances or ability to pay has changed, you can ask the court to lower or suspend the amount you are required to pay. What bigger change in circumstance than being incarcerated?
Although, we understand that every situation is different, it is extremely important that you petition the court to modify or suspend your child support order while you're incarcerated. If you or a loved one are facing incarceration and have a child support order, don't hesitate to contact our office today!