According to recent reports, one in five of the approximately 1.1 million parents behind bars in the United States are under obligation to pay child support to their children’s other parent. However, during the time these parents are serving their sentences, they are not able to make those payments, and the other parent must figure out a way to make ends meet in the meantime.

Last month, President Obama announced a new law set to be put into place in 2017 that would stop child support payments from continuing to accrue and going into arrears when the payor parent is incarcerated. The legislation recategorizes prison time as involuntary impoverishment, which allows the courts more leeway in making changes to a support order for extenuating circumstances.

Although this legislation may seem like a step in the right direction, many are already discussing the possible issues that may arise by it being put into practice. These include how the payee parent will continue to provide for the child without the child support payments coming in, whether parents will abuse the system by using a jail term to get out of paying child support and whether this will force more families to go on welfare to ensure they have enough money for basic necessities.

If you are a parent who is supposed to be receiving child support payments but haven’t because your child’s other parent is serving time in prison, it’s important to understand your options and how this new legislation may affect your situation. Talking with a family law attorney to get more information is the first step.

Source: Reading Eagle, “For men in prison, child support becomes a crushing debt,” accessed Nov. 20, 2015