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New Maryland law: Some prisoners do not need to pay child support

A state law that went in to effect October 1st provides that prisoners with Maryland child support orders will not have to pay support while incarcerated.

Specifically, while child support does not terminate altogether when a person goes to jail or prison, under the new law any inmate who has to serve more than 18 months will have his or her court-ordered payments suspended until 60 days following his or her release. Apparently, the law does not actually change prisoners' support obligations-it only grants prisoners temporary relief while they serve their time.

The law provides three exceptions:

  • Prisoners who are allowed work release will have to continue paying support while earning money on work release.
  • Prisoners who have sufficient other assets to pay support while incarcerated will have to first use those assets to keep their payments up.
  • Prisoners who commit a crime intending to go to jail in order to avoid child support will not be able to get relief from their obligations.

Proponents of the law claim that it will simply help a person get back on his or her feet after a lengthy incarceration, without having to face an insurmountable child support debt. While it is true that other debts, like credit cards, do not get "suspended" when a person goes to jail, failing to pay a child support debt carries with it much more serious consequences - including additional jail time - than would most other types of debt.

On the other hand, opponents point out that the law unfairly denies children (and their parents) the support they need. Obviously, a child's basic needs do not simply go away because one of the child's parents makes some bad decisions that land the parent in jail for several months. Also, opponents claim that even with current exceptions in the law, it would be difficult to keep people from avoiding their support obligations by committing crimes and going to jail.

With these new Maryland child support laws taking effect, those parents who may have to collect child support from someone who is incarcerated need to be aware of their rights and how to enforce them.

Source: WTOP, "Some new laws take effect in Maryland Monday", Sept. 30, 2012.

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