Legal Professionals of Hirsch & Ehlenberger

What happens to child support when the paying parent is incarcerated?

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2023 | Child Support

Rarely does anyone plan on getting incarcerated. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to spend some time behind bars, you will want to know what will become of your child support obligation.

Child support is meant to take care of a child’s day-to-day needs like food, shelter, clothing, education and healthcare. These needs do not go away when a parent loses the means to pay, such as when they are incarcerated.

Virginia law concerning a parent’s incarceration

Incarceration does not automatically exonerate you from paying child support. Per Virginia’s statute, however, a parent who is incarcerated for 180 days or more may seek protection from paying a potentially large child support amount that they may not be able to afford while in jail. This statute also protects an incarcerated parent from a huge child support debt upon release from jail.

There is an exception, though. The crime that led to the parent’s incarceration must not have anything to do with the child who is subject to the support order or the custodial parent. In other words, if the parent is incarcerated due to a crime that was committed against the child or the parent, the court may still expect them to pay their full obligations.

Can you modify child support if you are incarcerated?

Generally, you can petition the court to modify child support if there has been a material change in your circumstances. Thus, if you are jailed for 180 days or more, you can cite this as a material change of circumstance that justifies a modification.

Protecting your rights

Child support is a crucial source of income for millions of children following their parents’ divorce or separation. Learning how Virginia child support laws work can help you protect your rights and interests – and your child’s – while modifying an existing child support order or responding to a modification request filed by your child’s other parent.


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