According to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, in the United
States, about 1.7 million children have a mother or father who is incarcerated
in a state or federal prison.
In Pennsylvania, “Approximately 81,096 children have a parent incarcerated
in a Pennsylvania state prison or roughly 3 percent of all minor children
in the commonwealth. Approximately 65 percent of Pennsylvania state prison
inmates have at least one child,” reports the
Department of Corrections.
So, if you are a parent who is facing incarceration, or if you are getting a
divorced from someone who is incarcerated or soon will be, you probably have questions
about how child support is handled when someone is behind bars.
Does Child Support Stop Accruing?
A lot of non-custodial parents assume that if they are sentenced to jail
or prison, they will be relieved of their
child support obligation, but this is not the case. Nationwide, incarceration does not
stop a non-custodial parent’s child support obligation.
If the convicted parent has the means to continue paying child support,
he or she will still be on the hook, but if they don’t have the
money because of incarceration, they must ask the family court for a modification.
If a parent cannot pay child support while incarcerated, they must ask
the court for a downward modification right away. If they do not do this,
their child support will continue to accrue at the full amount and there
is NO way to go back and have it reversed or adjusted after they get out.
“Whether a parent is incarcerated or not, a material and substantial
change in circumstances is required to modify child support orders in
the majority of jurisdictions. Two situations that may be treated as a
material and substantial change in circumstances are incarceration and
“Some states allow incarceration to be considered a substantial change
in circumstances allowing for modification while others do not allow incarceration
alone to be a sufficient reason for modification and would require other
circumstances to be shown in order to modify,” according to the
National Conference of State Legislators.