Understanding Child Support Obligations During Incarceration in New York
For many families, child support is a crucial component that ensures the well-being of children following the separation or divorce of their parents. In New York, the state's guidelines for managing child support are designed to balance the needs of the child with the financial capabilities of the non-custodial parent, commonly referred to as the payor. When the payor experiences a significant life change, such as incarceration, it can complicate matters significantly.
In New York, incarceration is not automatically regarded as a 'voluntary unemployment' situation. This means that being imprisoned does not necessarily exempt a parent from their child support obligations. However, under certain circumstances, an incarcerated non-custodial parent may seek a modification of their child support order.
To modify a child support order due to incarceration, the incarcerated parent must demonstrate that their imprisonment has substantially changed their financial situation and that this change is not expected to be temporary. The courts will consider factors such as the length of the sentence and the availability of assets or income while incarcerated.
Historically, some individuals faced an uphill battle when trying to adjust child support payments during incarceration. For example, before changes in public policy and law, individuals might leave prison facing significant arrears, having accrued debt due to their inability to pay child support while incarcerated. This created a cycle that was difficult to break and often led to re-incarceration.
In response to such challenges, New York State has taken steps to allow for modifications. An example of this is the '2010 No-Fault Divorce Law' which includes provisions that potentially allow for downward modification of child support due to incarceration unless the incarceration is for non-payment of child support or an offense against the custodial parent or child.
Furthermore, if a non-custodial parent is incarcerated for 90 days or more, they have the right to request a review of their child support order. The court will examine if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the last order was set.
It's crucial for incarcerated parents to take action regarding their child support orders. Failure to address these obligations can lead to accumulation of arrears. Upon release, these arrears are typically enforced strictly by the state, which can include wage garnishment, seizure of tax refunds, and even revocation of driver's licenses.
Parents seeking modification should file a petition in Family Court or contact the New York State Child Support Helpline for assistance. Legal aid organizations may also offer guidance throughout this process.
Ultimately, both parents should focus on ensuring that any modifications serve the best interests of the child while reflecting the current reality of the payor's situation. It is essential for incarcerated individuals to understand their rights and responsibilities concerning child support in New York and take timely action towards modifications if applicable.