Can You Receive Child Support Payments if Your Ex is in Jail?

Updated on May 15, 2024
Updated: April 25, 2024

The first thing to understand is that incarceration does not generally relieve a parent of their legal obligation to pay court-ordered child support. Even if the paying parent is incarcerated, they are still responsible for fulfilling their financial obligations. With that said, indeed, many inmates do not have the financial resources available to enable them to make regular payments or even make one-time lump sum payments. In this situation, the non-custodial parent must work with the custodial parent and court officials to come up with an alternate payment arrangement.

When negotiating alternative arrangements, it’s important to remember that financial assistance might be available from other sources including family members or charitable organizations. In some cases, the Department of Corrections may provide housing and subsistence money directly to custodial parents as well as apply these funds towards unpaid child support arrears owed by a prisoner.

Additionally, the state Division of Child Support Services may offer assistance programs for those serving time in state prisons or local jails if they are no longer able to meet their child support obligations due to incarceration.

It's important to note that the court will always put the best interests of the child first, so it's important to speak with an experienced Chicago child support attorney for legal advice regarding current child support issues if you are unclear. Call our firm at 708-232-0017 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case.

Definition of Child Support in Illinois

Under Illinois child support laws, child support arrangements are a legal obligation of parents to provide financial support for their dependent children.

This child support agreement is typically paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, although in some cases it can be paid directly to the child. Under child support guidelines payment of child support is intended to help cover expenses related to raising a child, such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.

Can You Still Receive Child Support Payments if Your Ex is in Jail?

If your ex is in jail, you may be wondering if you can still receive child support payments for a minor child. The answer to this question depends on the state where you reside. However, the answer is generally yes, depending on the circumstances and employment status of your ex.


In Illinois, if your ex or the biological father of your child is behind bars for an extended period of time, the court will likely order that the child support payments be made from his or her other sources of income, such as income from investment, bank accounts, federal tax refunds, income shares, social benefit income, income tax refunds, dividend income, and unemployment insurance benefits.

If there are no other sources of income available, the court may order a substitute payment plan, such as income withholding. However, it is important to note that if your ex goes to jail for nonpayment of child support, for child support arrearage, or other related debts, he or she will still be required to pay any outstanding child support debts and child care arrears upon their release.

Child Support Obligation for an Incarcerated Parent

Child support payments are a legal obligation issued through the court system and enforced by the child support enforcement services, and when one of the parents is incarcerated, the responsibility to make child support payments does not go away. Child support is focused on providing financial assistance for a child’s basic needs and maintaining stability in their life, regardless of parental incarceration. An incarcerated parent needs to understand that they are still required to pay their child support obligations if they wish to avoid major consequences.

An incarcerated parent can petition the court for a temporary modification of their monthly child support payments if they have had a significant change in financial stability and circumstances. This could be because they have access to no income while in jail or prison; however, some states allow inmates to work during that time, enabling them to use that money toward past-due child support.

In other cases, courts may lower or completely waive the child support payment amount until the parent is released from imprisonment and gainfully employed again - as long as there's evidence to prove this inability. Courts generally reject requests to fully waive regular child support obligations solely based on inconvenience or martyrdom that may arise from making payment arrangements with another party.

The Impact of Incarceration on Individuals' Income and Assets

Incarcerated parents with child support obligations, can have their income and assets significantly impacted. A common financial consequence of incarceration is the inability to pay child support recipients.

Related: How to Divorce a Spouse Who is in Prison

In Illinois, incarcerated noncustodial parents must continue to make payments on any existing child support orders they may have unless they are indigent or confined in a Department of Corrections facility.

If an individual has been ordered to pay child support but cannot due to lack of income, the court may consider their situation to determine an appropriate payment options resolution to this complex issue.

Child Support Modifications During Incarceration

Child support modifications during incarceration in Illinois are handled differently than in most other states. While an incarcerated person may be able to terminate current support obligations, certain criteria must still be met. Typically, the parent must have no income or assets and demonstrate that their level of imprisonment is likely to continue for a significant period.


If a parent’s income or assets cannot be terminated due to incarceration, the court may issue a modification of child support. To do so, the parent must be able to demonstrate that their incarceration prevents them from employment opportunities, earning an income and/or having assets, and copies of documentation showing a bankruptcy petition necessary to make the required child support money.

In Illinois, courts may consider a variety of factors when deciding whether or not to modify financial child support for a dependent order due to incarceration. These factors include the length of the parent’s incarceration, the parent’s ability to obtain employment after their release, and any other relevant facts.

Is Child Support Enforceable Against Parents Who Are Incarcerated?

When an alleged father or parent is incarcerated in Illinois, they are still responsible for paying child support. The enforcement of these payments depends on the type and duration of the incarceration. If a custodial parent applies for child support through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), they must inform HFS about the incarceration. HFS can then request information about the inmate's finances from the correctional facility.

The court can take money from an inmate's paycheck and bank accounts. They can also make the individual pay once they're out of prison.

Contact Our Child Support Attorneys 

If your ex-spouse is incarcerated in Illinois, it can be difficult to get child support payments. In this situation, you may need to contact an experienced Chicago family lawyer from Tommalieh Law for legal services assistance.

A divorce attorney can help you navigate the collection of child support legal process to ensure that your ex-spouse's obligations are being met and that you are receiving the child support payments you are entitled to. Contact us today for an initial consultation. 

Text Us
crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram