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Will I receive child support if the other parent is in jail?

Even if a parent is in jail, he or she can still be ordered by a Massachusetts court to pay child support. The process works differently depending on whether there was an existing court order for support at the time the person went to jail.

If child support has not yet been ordered, a court can order that it be paid even if the parent is in jail. However the court is not mandated to follow the child support guidelines if the paying parent is in jail and will likely remain incarcerated for at least three more years.

If a parent goes to jail after a child support order has been established, the fact that he or she is incarcerated does not automatically modify the order. Only a judge can do this. An incarcerated parent may still be able to fulfill the obligations through other income or assets. For example, he or she may have rental income, income from a business that is still running, disability income or investment income from stocks or bonds. The parent may be able to sell assets, including stocks, bonds or investments in retirement accounts to fulfill these obligations, and may also be able to tap into other assets such as bank accounts, real estate or other valuable property. The custodial parent can file a motion for contempt if the other parent is not paying support.

The incarcerated parent must show good cause regarding why he or she cannot pay child support and must convince the judge that he or she is unable to do so. If the order is not modified, the amount that is owed will continue to accumulate. Those who are affected by this situation may choose to contact a family law attorney to learn about the options available in their cases.

Source: MassLegalHelp, "What happens if a parent that should pay child support is in jail?", December 27, 2014

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