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Child support during incarceration in Tennessee

Regardless of which side of the prison bars a parent is on, incarceration leads to huge child support problems for Tennessee families. If a noncustodial parent ends up in prison, it is a good bet that he or she will not be able to pay child support. This means three major things:

  • Most important, the children are not getting the financial support they need and deserve.
  • The custodial parent will probably have to find a way to take up the slack financially.
  • The incarcerated parent will continue accruing child support debt.

Such a situation benefits no one and adds to the nationwide problem of unpaid child support. Those who pay the highest cost in these situations—the children—are also the most innocent. As family law attorneys, we sympathize with everyone impacted by these kinds of circumstances. However, legally, there’s not a lot that parents can do to mitigate the situation.

Tennessee is one of just a few states that do not allow parents to modify a child support order based on incarceration. Our state considers imprisonment a voluntary form of unemployment because the person behind bars chose to commit a crime.

In 2016, the nation’s Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) published a new rule that would classify incarceration as involuntary unemployment instead of voluntary. This classification change makes it possible for incarcerated parents to change the court’s support order based on imprisonment. However, the rule is optional at this time, and Tennessee does not participate.

In the meantime, parents should never give up on their efforts to find a legal solution for child support problems. Please review our website to learn more the many family law issues we handle.