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Illinois prisoners stuck in child support debt spiral

Illinois prisoners stuck in child support debt spiral

Date: April 16, 2013

Illinois generally requires parents who don’t live with their children to make regular payments to help the custodial parent handle the everyday expenses of raising a child. The exact amount of these child support payments required is calculated in accordance with a set of guidelines under Illinois law and depends upon the child’s needs and the other parent’s ability to pay.

However, that ability can change drastically when a parent loses a job or suffers another major setback. Delinquent payments quickly add up, gathering interest and penalties until a parent is caught in a spiral of debt with no easy way out. Some of the worst cases involve parents who are in jail. According to one report, of the 6,646 child support cases in the Illinois court system, 5,589 of them involve a parent who is in jail. These prisoners owe a total of more than $97 million in child support, but they have no way to make the money to make the payments. Interest piles up on these delinquent payments and so when these prisoners are released, they find themselves facing an insurmountable debt.

Of course, imprisonment is not the only problem holding up child support for Illinois parents. Many custodial parents struggle to meet everyday expenses when the non-custodial parent simply refuses to meet child support obligations. And many paying parents find themselves unable to meet their obligations after a job loss or another type of setback.

The authorities have many tools at their disposal to pressure non-paying parents to meet their obligations, including suspending driver’s licenses or even arrest. Those parents who have fallen behind might want to request a modification of their child support obligations as quickly as possible.

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

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