Can You File for Child Support if the Incarcerated Parent is in Jail

Can You File for Child Support if the Incarcerated Parent is in Jail?

When a parent is charged with a crime, convicted, and sentenced to serve time in jail, the financial obligations they owe to their child or children do not disappear. Going to jail is not a “get out of jail free” card for child support (pardon the pun). Individuals convicted of a criminal offense in California will, at some point, remain on the hook to pay child support. So if you were asking, “Can you file for child support if a father is in jail?” Here is the answer: generally yes.

Child Support Obligations

When it comes to child support obligations in California, serving a jail sentence is viewed similarly to being unemployed for a period of time – it is unfortunate but not an excuse to circumvent your support payments. Child support obligations do not stop accruing simply because a noncustodial parent is serving time in jail or prison. However, a recent modification to a California law provided a modicum of relief for incarcerated individuals.

Sept 27, 2022, Law Changed Incarcerated Parent Responsibility

A new law went into effect on September 27, 2022, in California that established an “automatic stop” on child support obligations when a noncustodial parent is incarcerated for more than 90 days in a California jail, prison, juvenile detention, a mental health facility, or other correctional institution. Basically, this new law means the incarcerated noncustodial parent will not owe child support for the period of time they were incarcerated. 

The Exception: The Person in Jail Still Has Income Or Assets

If you are wondering how to get child support from someone in jail, the key issue is whether the incarcerated individual has any accessible assets. This is because there is a noteworthy exception to the new state law described above – child support obligations do NOT automatically stop if there is evidence indicating the noncustodial parent has the funds or assets readily available to pay child support. For example, if a wealthy individual is convicted of financial fraud and sentenced to serve a term of, let’s say, five years in prison, any assets that can be liquidated to help pay child support obligations remain accessible (e.g., money in a checking account, automobiles, properties, stock options, etc.).

When Child Support Restarts for an Incarcerated Parent

In addition to the “available assets” exception, it is important to note that an incarcerated individual will, at some point, have to resume making support payments. In fact, under California law, child support obligations recommence at the amount being paid prior to incarceration on the first day of the first full month the parent is released from jail or prison. For example, if a noncustodial parent was released on June 8, child support would restart on July 1.

How to Request a Child Support Modification Order

When someone owes child support while being confined in a California jail or prison, it is important to file a request for modifications of child support. For example, suppose someone is confined in jail or prison for less than 90 days and loses their job. In that case, that individual retains the right to file a formal request with a California court seeking a modification to the amount of child support owed. In this hypothetical, the basis for requesting the modification would be predicated on the job loss rather than the term of incarceration. 


Have Questions About California Child Support Laws When a Noncustodial Parent is Incarcerated? Contact Castro Law Offices Today for Assistance

If you have questions about child support obligations, including when a noncustodial parent is serving time in jail or prison, speak to an experienced child support lawyer with the Castro Law Offices. Our legal team is here to help and can provide answers to your most pressing questions. Castro Law Offices is based in Novato, California, but is ready and able to provide legal services and advice to clients in and around Marin County, including Novato, San Rafael, Greenbrae, San Anselmo, Fairfax, Sausalito, Larkspur, West Marin, Ross, Mill Valley, and Corte Madera.


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