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Support Obligations of Incarcerated Parents in Texas

“What are my child support obligations if I enter jail or prison?” First, it is important for you to know your child support obligation will not end if you are incarcerated. Court-ordered child support does not automatically end if a parent loses their job, is disabled, hospitalized, or becomes incarcerated.

If you have a child support case, the only way to reduce or stop the court-ordered amount of child support is to ask the court. The Office of The Attorney General (OAG) does not have the jurisdiction to change your support order on their own. Only the court with jurisdiction over your case has that authority. One of the best ways to address the issue is to hire a private attorney to file the paperwork asking the court to modify the existing order, especially if the parent is already incarcerated.

Note: Due to legislation passed in 2015, incarceration for longer than 90 days is considered a “substantial change in circumstances” for downward modifications. So, if you are going to be incarcerated for at least 90 days, the court will consider your “actual earned income” during your incarceration and may modify your child support order to reflect that.

What If Child Support is Set When I’m in Prison?

If you are convicted of a crime and you cannot work for some time, what happens if a child support case is opened while you’re incarcerated? In 2015, a state law was passed for criminal defendants confined in local, state, or federal jail or prisons exceeding 90 days.

Under this law, the family court shall consider the offender’s actual income earned while he or she was incarcerated when setting their child support obligation. If your child support obligation was set after September 1, 2015, and you were behind bars when your support obligation was established, there is a good chance that your support obligation was zero during your incarceration as long as you did not have any financial resources.

On the other hand, if you had rental income, investment income, a pension, residual income, or another source of passive income while you were incarcerated, your support obligation could likely not be established at zero dollars.

Are you facing jail or prison now? If you wish to change your child support order for the period of your incarceration, the proper legal papers must be filed with the court. Remember, your support obligation does not change unless the court issues a ruling; therefore, it is best to get started right away.