By: LeMara Perry
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Office of Child Support Services (OCSE) has now made changing a child support order an easier task. OCSE has introduced a new instructive guide, which provides parents with a better understanding of the child support review and modification procedure. While most of the guide focuses on changes that are handled by the child support agency, it was designed for those parents who may not have access to the Internet and who have limited knowledge of the child support system.
The new guide offers state-specific information such as phone numbers, websites, and forms to help start the review and modification process. The main point highlighted by the guide highlights if a parent has a significant change in their income or living situation and they have a case with a child support office, it is important for them to contact the child support agency as soon possible to ensure that the child support order accurately reflects the current situation.
One of the most common situations that arise is a parent becoming incarcerated. Typically, child support orders are not automatically reduced when a parent enters prison, even if s/he no longer has the ability to make payments. If parents wait until after they are released from prison to notify the agency, they will still be held responsible for paying the full amount of child support that is owed.
Incarcerated parents can file for modifications directly with the court, however the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) has special policies regarding incarcerated parents. The CSSD may file on behalf of the incarcerated parent if the sentence is longer than 30 days. CSSD encourages the incarcerated parent as well as friends or relatives of the incarcerated parent to call CSSD immediately to request a modification of the child support order. Notifying CSSD in a timely manner is important because if the modification request is granted, the court can modify the support order from the date on which CSSD is notified of the parent’s incarceration.
If a parent makes a modification request to CSSD, CSSD may not oppose the request if the parent has an active child support order that continues to accrue, has been sentenced to a term of incarceration for more than 30 days, the parent’s incarceration is the result of a charge other than failure to pay child support and the incarcerated parent has insufficient financial assets to meet child support obligations demonstrated in bank accounts, retirement accounts, and other financial accounts.
All parents have the right to request a change in child support. Either parent may request a modification to an existing child support order if there is a substantial amount of change in previous circumstances such as job loss, change in income, or if the parent is incarcerated or released from prison. Three years after the initial order, either parent may request a modification during a Review and Adjustment Conference.
In cases involving incarcerated parents, please notify the CSSD Legal Services Section at (202) 724-1462.