Custody And Support Modifications May Ease Burdens For Some

Debtors prisons were officially abolished in the mid 1800s in this country as governments came to the conclusion that jailing people for their inability to payoff civil debts was counterproductive. Though the use of jail time and other consequences are still used by many states for parents who owe back support, including here in Washington, these deterrents often create circumstances that cause non-custodial parents fall further behind. When possible, individuals who are struggling with this issue may be able to seek relief through custody and support modifications.

Reports that investigate the effects of jail time for parents who are in arrears have discovered that those who are already struggling will likely face even more barriers for making good on their obligations. Furthermore, enforcement programs that suspend a parent’s driving license also have a negative impact on a parent’s ability to earn enough to pay. Those who lose their driving privileges are more likely to lose their current jobs and are less likely to find gainful employment opportunities.

Reports have found that many lower-income parents have difficulty staying current on support because their court orders are not based on their current financial situations. Many courts structure child support orders based on the parent’s potential earnings if he or she obtains a full-time position. However, having a support payment that exceeds one’s ability to reasonably meet will make it more likely that he or she will fall behind. 

Some judges issue jail time for parents who owe back support on the theory that doing so will provide an impetus to find the money through friends or relatives to make the payments. While this may be effective in some situations, the majority of low-income parents will not have access to these sources. Washington parents who are struggling to meet their obligations — or are finding it difficult to provide for their children — may be best served by contacting an experienced attorney who can provide assistance in seeking custody and support modifications.

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The Law Offices of Stacy D. Heard, PLLC

Stacy Heard is an accomplished and well-respected family law attorney in Seattle, Washington who has served clients for over 20 years. Stacy specializes in matrimonial and family law. She handles matters of divorce, high-conflict parenting plan/child custody issues, international custody disputes and Hague Convention cases, complex financial issues, relocation, restraining orders, child support, and modifications of Parenting Plans and Child Support Orders.