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If you’re a noncustodial parent who pays child support and now you’re facing criminal charges, you may be wondering if you will stop owing child support during your period of incarceration. This is a reasonable thing to wonder and it certainly crosses the minds of every defendant who is convicted of a crime in Virginia.

If you’re convicted of the crime in question and sentenced to jail or prison, how will your incarceration impact child support? For starters, it’s important for you to know that if you skip making payments for any reason, including unemployment, disability, mental illness, a serious car accident, or incarceration, the child support arrears will continue to accrue, possibly with interest. You will have to pay them back eventually.

You Are Still Obligated to Pay Child Support

Like all states, in Virginia, parents are legally obligated to support their children whether they are married or not. As a noncustodial parent who has been ordered by a court to pay child support, that obligation does not end because you are sentenced to jail or prison. The only way a parent’s obligation to support their children ends is by the termination of parental rights.

So, even if you are incarcerated, you are still obligated to pay child support. Of course you’re probably thinking, “How am I going to pay child support if I can’t work because I’m in jail or prison?” Read on to get this question answered.

“On average, an incarcerated parent with a child support order has the potential to leave prison with nearly $20,000 in child support debt, having entered the system with around half that amount owed,” according to the National conference of State Legislatures.

Substantial Change in Circumstances

Whether you’re incarcerated or not, if you experience a substantial change in circumstances, you can ask the family court for a downward modification. Two situations that may certainly qualify as a “substantial change” are unemployment and incarceration.

Unless you are participating in a work release program or you have other attachable assets, the local child support collection agency has no way to collect child support from you while you’re in jail or prison. Your child support will continue to be owed and interest can be tacked on to the unpaid balance.

To avoid owing more than you should, it’s wise to petition the family court immediately and request a modification. If it’s approved based on incarceration, you may be able to reduce the amount you owe upon release, and this can be significant.

To learn more, read this FAQ page about child support from

If you’re facing criminal charges, contact Andrew J. Cornick, Attorney at Law.