Child support plays an invaluable role in the quality of a child’s life and their trajectory toward a healthy and positive future. However, non-custodial parents with criminal records often find themselves unable to meet child support obligations due to an inability to secure stable employment.
Last year, the Maryland legislature passed a law that automatically suspends child support payments of non-custodial parents who are incarcerated for more than 18 months and have no financial means to pay child support while incarcerated. This policy, which only applies to individuals sentenced after October 2012, will alleviate incarcerated parents from the stress of owing upwards of $30,000 when released from prison, and prevent severe salary deductions and suspended driver’s license.
The inability to meet child support obligations is discouraging for anyone, especially residents returning to the community from incarceration. These individuals often become so discouraged knowing they will not be able to meet those obligations that they are forced into an underground work world that puts them back on course with the justice system and nobody wins–especially the child.
Child support enforcement practices have traditionally focused on aggressively collecting payments from the non-custodial parent without much consideration to the economic or social plight of the individual. Such policies and practices create additional strains on the family, without regard to the impact on a child’s relationship with each parent and reduce the possibility of collaborative parenting. Alleviating the stress of child support obligations can create opportunities for recently released noncustodial parents to have positive relationships with their children, and increases a child’s chances of being healthy and productive in the future.
On May 22, 2013 the The Greater Baltimore Criminal Justice Grassroots Network in partnership with Coppin State University will hold a community forum to discuss the current state of child support policies in Maryland. The forum will bring together agency officials, custodial and non-custodial parents, advocates, and service providers to collectively examine the Maryland child support system and how to improve outcomes. Resources will be available to formerly incarcerated parents that will help identify and address barriers preventing them from upholding their financial responsibilities to their children. Won’t you attend? And please, bring a friend.