Child support repayment timeline extended for formerly incarcerated parents
Post Staff Reporting, Alameda Post
On October 8, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1148, a bill introduced by Assemblymember Mia Bonta, into law. The Stable Parents, Stable Children Act , sponsored by Root & Rebound, a reentry legal resource organization, brings crucial reform to the child support system by extending the time for formerly incarcerated parents to resume child support payments from one month or less after exiting incarceration to 10 months.
The law amends Family Code §4007.5(b), which requires that child support obligations resume on the first day of the month after an incarcerated person is released. Under the current law—which will change when AB 1148 goes into effect on January 1, 2024—parents who are unable to pay face punitive consequences such as suspension of their driver’s license and increased interest on the amount of child support owed.
“Over 75 percent of outstanding child support debt in California is owed by parents who could not afford to pay their original child support order,” Assemblymember Bonta explained. “The current system sets people up for failure because it fails to recognize barriers people re-entering into society face, particularly the difficulty in finding stable employment.”
Data shows it can take individuals more than six months to find stable employment post-incarceration, but in reality, according to women served by Root and Rebound, it can take formerly incarcerated people an average of a year to find stable employment. Research shows the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is nearly five times higher than the unemployment rate for the general United States population.
“Parents may resort to working in underground economies out of fear of being unable to provide for themselves,” Assemblymember Bonta said. “Having insufficient income only elongates reentry journeys because when support payments are not received as ordered, it results in harsh punishments for the formerly incarcerated parent and creates additional economic reentry barriers.”
Claudia J. Gonzalez, Central Valley Policy Associate at Root & Rebound said, “We applaud the state legislature for recognizing child support debt is a financial barrier that not only harms formerly incarcerated parents, but also families and children. This bill will be life-changing for impacted people, especially those in rural communities of the Central Valley as it provides them the opportunity to stabilize themselves instead of immediately incurring debt. We applaud Governor Newsom for signing this bill into law and supporting impacted families.”
In addition to the financial challenges, a parent’s inability to pay child support harms children, and research shows parents who are in arrears on child support are less likely to have relationships with their children.
Even the federal government recognizes the harm to children when parents are unable to pay child support. The 2016 federal government child support requirements state that setting orders “beyond a noncustodial parent’s ability to pay can result in a number of deleterious effects, including unmanageable debt, reduced low-wage employment, increased underground activities, crime, incarceration, recidivism, and reduced contact with their children.”
When Assemblymember Bonta learned that AB 1148 has been signed into law, she said, “This bill truly is a mechanism for formerly incarcerated parents to obtain some financial stability while supporting family reunification and providing for their families.”