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Illinois inmates may get break in child support

Most parents understand that they are financially responsible for their children no matter their personal circumstances. After all, children's needs are constant and do not typically wax or wane with their parents' income level or availability. It is for that reason that child support payments are strictly enforced by the state of Illinois. Once a parent agrees to make payments, they are bound by the law to do so or else may face steep penalties. However, what happens to a parent's financial obligation to their kids if they lose their potential to earn an income because they are incarcerated? The state is now attempting to address that very question with a new piece of legislation.

In Illinois, almost $100 million is currently owed in back child support payments by state prisoners, and they account for the majority of cases involving delinquent payments. Few may agree that inmates should be exempt from providing for their children, but some argue that it is counterproductive to expect prisoners to pay child support when they have no resources to fulfill their obligation. In fact, proponents of a new bill contend that current standards make it more difficult for inmates to ever make good on their debts.

Right now, interest accumulates on every month of support payments that go unmade by inmates. Penalties can build over time, placing individuals on the wrong side of the law again if and when their prison term ends.

If passed, the new bill would not require prisoners to pay child support until they are released or unless they have qualifying income to use. The law will go into effect after July, 2013, if it passes in the House of Representatives.

Source: Illinois Times, "Debt piles up behind bars," Jacqueline Muhammad, April 4, 2013

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