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Why We Establish Orders/Paternity for Incarcerated Parents

There are several reasons why we establish paternity and child support orders for incarcerated parents.

Federal regulations require that we work child support cases (paternity, establishment as well as any available enforcement remedies) with incarcerated noncustodial parents.

  • 45 CFR §303.8 (b)(2) mandates that a state child support program must request a court modify an incarcerated NCP’s child support order upon learning the incarceration is or will be longer than 180 days.
  • 45 CFR 303.11 (8) states “The IV-D agency has determined that throughout the duration of the child’s minority (or after the child has reached the age of majority), the noncustodial parent cannot pay support and shows no evidence of support potential because the parent has been institutionalized in a psychiatric facility, is incarcerated, or has a medically-verified total and permanent disability. The State must also determine that the noncustodial parent has no income or assets available above the subsistence level that could be levied or attached for support”.
  • 45 CFR §303.11(6) guides state child support programs when closure of a paternity establishment case can be closed and incarceration of a parent is not an allowable closure.

State Law and Child Support policy also addresses the obligations of incarcerated parents.

Benefits of Working Incarcerated Cases

While states are mandated to work cases with incarcerated NCP’s, there are also benefits for the child and the state.

  • Benefits for the child when paternity is established on an incarcerated father include the ability to obtain benefits through the father, family identify for medical information and other reasons as well as the potential to establish a father/child relationship.
  • Benefits for the state include that working these cases add to our federal performance measure and federal incentive funding because the state receives paternity and order establishment credit when paternity and/or a child support order is established on an incarcerated father (even if it’s a $-0- child support order given that the incarcerated parent usually has no income).

For more information about child support and incarcerated parents you may want to read a Child Support Fact Sheet for the federal Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) called Realistic Child Support Orders for Incarcerated Parents. See also the CSQuest article Checklist for Incarcerated NCPs.