Reducing child support arrears for the previously incarcerated based on the ability to pay as a step towards successful re-entry into society.
Adams and Reese
Access to Justice
Justice and Accountability Center
Each year more than 17,000 people are released from prison in Louisiana and almost half will return within 5 years. A common hurdle for those reentering the workforce after incarceration is the fact that they leave jail with child support arrears that accrued during their incarceration. These arrears accrued despite the fact that they earned little or no money while incarcerated. In many cases, large amounts of child support arrears that accrued during incarceration are being deducted during the highest-risk period of post-release supervision – from their initial paychecks. This leads to recidivism. Ex-offenders also risk being put back into jail or losing licenses for non-payment of child support obligations. Minimum monthly child support payments were recently lowered to $100 for those making $0-900 a month. No law or mechanism currently exists, however, that suspends or automatically modifies child support payments and prevents the accrual of arrears while a parent is incarcerated. Louisiana law allows parents to modify child support obligations when material changes have occurred, but case law has held that incarceration is not a valid ground to modify child support obligations. They have held that incarceration is akin to “voluntary unemployment.” This project would involve structural reform of this system. Louisiana Appleseed volunteers researched, reviewed, and analyzed the child support system, and the significant impact that the inability to modify child support obligations has on the successful re-entry of previously incarcerated parents.