Child Support and Reentry

Lynne Haney, Ph.D., and Marie-Dumesle Mercier
September 2021

Incarceration and the build-up of child support arrears are clearly linked. Incarceration of a paying parent causes child support arrears to increase and a high amount of child support arrears leads to incarceration. This article addresses ways in which the criminal justice system and child support should work together to ensure a successful reentry into society for parents. Reentering parents face challenges from institutional obstacles and state policies. This article recommends policy reforms at the federal, state, and local level that will lead to more successful reentry. The reforms include changes to the child support rules, polices to encourage modification of orders while the parent is incarcerated, debt-relief programs, and supportive court practices.