Child Support – Incarcerated Parents

Incarcerated parents face unique challenges while incarcerated and as they transition back to the community.

Being in prison or jail can make paying child support difficult or impossible. But the parent’s child support obligation does not stop. Child support orders remain in effect, monthly payments are expected and arrears can accrue.

If you go to jail or prison, tell your county child support worker. The child support office may be able to help.

Only a court order can change a child support obligation. Information about changing orders applies to many changes in income and family circumstances, including a parent's inability to pay due to incarceration.

Here are some frequently asked questions about support while a parent is incarcerated.

Can I get my child support reduced or stopped until I am out of prison?

  • Yes. Here are the steps you must take.
  • 1. Send a written request to the child support office to review your support order. The request should state the reasons for the review.
  • 2. The county child support staff will determine if the existing order meets review requirements.
  • • If it does, they will complete the review and file a motion asking the court to modify the order.
  • • If the case does not meet the requirements, they will notify the parent who asked for the review.
  • • If the parent still wants the order changed, the parent can file a motion asking the court to modify the order.
  • How do I file a motion?

  • • The state child support office encourages you get an attorney before starting a legal action. An option without an attorney is to file “pro se,” which means that you represent yourself in court. Some counties offer self-help for people who represent themselves. For more information, call the court administration office in the county where your order for support is filed.
  • • Court forms are available at county court administration offices or the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s website. Step-by-step instructions are included with the forms.
  • When can support orders be changed?

    Support orders can be modified if:

  • • there is a substantial increase or decrease in either parent’s income
  • • there is a substantial increase or decrease in the needs of a parent or child, including receipt of public assistance and child care
  • • there is a substantial change in the cost-of-living
  • • change in custody
  • • there are extraordinary medical expenses for the child
  • • the child is emancipated
  • If any of the above is true, you may request your court order be changed by filing a motion with the court. The court will presume that there has been a substantial change of circumstances and also will presume that your support order is unreasonable and unfair if:

  • • Based on the obligor’s current income, changing the current order would result in a child support amount that is 20 percent and at least $75 higher or lower than the current order
  • Medical support provisions are not enforceable
  • Health care coverage ordered is not available to the child for whom the order is established by the parent ordered to provide it
  • • The current order is a percentage of income not a fixed dollar amount
  • • The gross income of a party has decreased by at least 20 percent through no fault or choice of the party.
  • I got my support reserved while I am incarcerated. What happens after my release?

    The court or the child support office will review your financial circumstances when you are released and set a new order based on your ability to pay. You should provide information about your employment status and efforts that you’ve made to get a full-time job to the court, the child support agency, and your child’s other parent. It is also important to give your child support worker and the court your new mailing address so you get your monthly billing statement and notices about changes on your case.

    I have a child, but am not married to the mother. Is there a way to be recognized as my child’s legal father without going to court?

    A couple that isn’t married and has a child together can sign a Recognition of Parentage form. This form establishes the man who signs the form as the legal father and allows the father’s name to be placed on the birth certificate. To be valid, the form must be signed by both parties in the presence of a notary and filed with the Minnesota Department of Health.

    What if we’ve established parentage by signing the voluntary Recognition of Parentage and then change our minds?

    During the first 60 days after signing, either parent can cancel the Recognition of Parentage by sending a written statement or revocation form to the Minnesota Department of Health. After 60 days, the parents cannot cancel the Recognition of Parentage and must file a motion asking the court to cancel it. However, if you get genetic tests that show the man who signed the form is not the biological father, you have six months after you get this information to ask the court to cancel the Recognition of Parentage.

    My child’s other parent denies me any contact with my child. Can child support help me establish parenting time or get a change in custody?

    The child support office is only authorized to provide certain services, which do not include issues of parenting time or custody.

    I’m serving the last few months of my sentence. My driver’s license was suspended for non-payment of child support. What must I do to get my license reinstated?

    You have several options.

  • • Sign a payment agreement.
  • • Apply for a 90-day limited license from the Department of Public Safety.
  • File a motion asking the court to reinstate your license.
  • Contact your child support worker for more information.
  • My wife and I filed a federal joint tax return. We recently received a notice stating our refund was intercepted and applied to my child support arrears. How can my wife get her portion of the refund returned to her?

    Your wife must file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Claim and Allocation to request her portion of the joint refund. If it’s a state tax refund, contact your Child Support Officer.

    Is there anything available to help me transition back into the community?

    MinnesotaHelp.Info™ is an online directory of services designed to help people in Minnesota identify resources such as human services, information and referral, financial assistance, and other forms of aid and assistance within Minnesota.


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