Frequently Asked Questions -- Incarcerated and Returning Parents

Is it possible to establish parentage if the person who may be the parent is incarcerated?

Yes, the parentage establishment process is available for individuals who are incarcerated.

  • If the parents were married to each other or in a registered domestic partnership with each other at the time of the child's conception, birth, or any period in between, then the same presumption of parentage exists as it does for parents when one is not incarcerated.
  • If the parents are not married to each other or in a domestic partnership at the time of birth, conception, or anytime in between, then the same options exist for the voluntary establishment of parentage as for other unmarried individuals.

For more information about establishing parentage, visit: Establishing Parentage and Paternity.

Does a parent have to pay child support even if incarcerated?

A child support obligation continues to run even if a parent is incarcerated.  However, if the parent ordered to pay support seeks a modification of the support order, the court will determine if it is proper to adjust the order during that person's time in jail or prison.

CSSD encourages parents to explore the possibility of a support modification while incarcerated. If the order is modified to reflect the actual ability to pay while in prison, the parent will leave prison owing little or no child support arrears, which will offer some support to the child(ren) and ease re-entry into society.

Is it possible to ask that child support be modified at sentencing?

In 2005, the District of Columbia enacted a law entitled “Notice at Sentencing of Child Support Modification.” The law allows parents ordered to pay support who are being sentenced for 30 days or more for a criminal offense (not related to child support) to seek a modification of their child support order(s). The law also applies to parents whose probations are being revoked and who are facing a sentence of 30 days or more.  If the parent's motion is granted, support is modified from the filing date of the motion and forward.

For additional information, visit: Modifying a Child Support Order.

Once a parent is released, what should be done about the child support order?

The returning parent should contact the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) immediately to provide current address and updated financial information.

With that information, it may be appropriate for CSSD to file a motion to reinstate the order.  Depending on the person's current financial information, the reinstated order could be set at the same, higher, or lower rate.

Are services available to help a person after being released?

Yes! CSSD has several programs that can assist returning parents.

For more information about services related to child support, visit: Help for Parents Ordered to Pay Support.

For additional information, visit: the Resources page.