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Help, I'm Incarcerated & Can't Pay Child Support!


If you’re facing criminal charges in Texas and you’re a noncustodial parent, you probably have questions about your child support obligation. “Do I have to pay child support while I’m in jail or prison? Will my child support obligation be reduced or terminated until my release? Or, will I be on the hook for the full amount while I’m behind bars and then have to pay it all back when I get out?” are the types of questions that our clients ask us frequently.

If a family court has ordered you to pay child support in Texas, it’s important that you are aware that incarceration does not automatically stop or reduce child support payments while a noncustodial parent is behind bars.

If you don’t have the resources to pay child support during your term of incarceration, the ONLY way your child support can be changed or stopped is if you ask the family court to change the child support order.

Incarcerated for Over 90 Days?

If you can’t afford to pay your monthly child support while you’re incarcerated, our advice is to contact an attorney to ask the court for a “review and adjustment” to your current child support order.

For now, if you’re able to send all or some of your child support, be sure to send it through the State Disbursement Unit. If you give child support directly to your ex, it won’t be credited to your child support case and the court may decide that your direct payment to the other parent was a “gift.”

If you are sentenced to a local, state, or federal jail or prison in Texas, your child support obligation does not automatically change even if your income stops because you can’t work. The only way to get your child support obligation changed to reflect your current financial circumstances is to petition the court to change (modify) it.

If you are incarcerated for more than 90 days, the court will assume that you experienced a “significant change in circumstances,” which will allow the court to consider your actual income during incarceration as a factor that may grant a change in your support obligation.

Next: Who Decides if I Accept a Plea Bargain?

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