Florida non-custodial parents who are incarcerated may ask for a modification in the child support they are required to pay. However, this is not the case in every state, and the Obama administration is moving to put regulations in place that change this. The administration is also proposing that states be required to set child support based on a prisoner's actual income.
One concern is that according to one advocate, the child support system leads to mass incarceration. Prisoners who are unable to pay child support because they have little to no income while are released to debts in the tens of thousands of dollars. They may then be sent to jail because of nonpayment. One man serving a six-year sentence for armed robbery owed $50,000 in child support and interest when he was released. He had asked for a modification, but the state did not allow it, and his obligation had gone up from $50 to $400 per month despite the fact that he was earning only about $40 per month.
In 2010, a government survey found that about 51,000 federal prisoners had child support obligations. Of those, approximately 29,000 were behind on their payments, and the average amount owed was slightly less than $24,000.
A change in financial circumstances that results in a person being unable to pay child support requires going before a judge to ask for modification. Otherwise, the support owed will accumulate along with possible interest. Child support attorneys will inform their clients that, even if the court issues the modification, it will be prospective in nature only and will have no effect on amounts that are in arrears.