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Unfortunately, a number of Pennsylvania parents end up being incarcerated. While they are in prison, these inmates are often unable to make their monthly child support payments. This means that when they get out, they may face large levels of child support debt that they are unable to pay.

The Obama administration is working to change the child support rules for prisoners as a part of its focus on criminal justice reform. Administration officials say that inmates who have large child support debt balances are likelier to be reincarcerated and may have a more difficult time finding jobs after they are released.

The administration completed a survey of federal prisoners in 2010. It found that 29,000 inmates had child support debts, with the average debt being $24,000. Fourteen states currently do not allow people to modify their child support orders on the basis of incarceration. Many other states make child support modifications for prisoners difficult. Although states operate their own child support systems, the federal government sets the national standards for the individual programs and reimburses the states for up to 66 percent of what the states pay to administer their child support programs.

Child support guidelines take several factors into account. For example, judges will consider the relative incomes of both parents. If a parent’s financial circumstances change substantially after the child support order is issued, he or she may seek to have the amount reduced by filing a motion to modify. The original amounts that were ordered will continue to accrue, so the parent will need to continue making the payments until the court grants the requested modification.