A National Mailout Survey of State Level Laws and Policies Regarding Incarcerated Fathers Payment of Child Support Obligations

Julie A. Bruns, Sam Houston State University

This quantitative study provides a national overview of child support policies for fathers incarcerated in state-operated prisons. This National Survey of Incarcerated Fathers and Child Support was mailed to: A) The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and B) The Director of Child Support Enforcement in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. A modified version of Dillman's Total Design Method (2000) was implemented with three time-series contacts with respondents. With a response rate of 88% this study collected a representative sample of responses in major U.S. jurisdictions to questions concerning the number of incarcerated fathers, child support policies, and the agency's awareness of the inmate child support dilemma. A total of 90 representatives, 46 child support representatives and 44 corrections representatives, from 51 jurisdictions participated in the study. The extrapolated data show national estimates that 15% of adult males incarcerated in state-operated institutions have child support obligations. The study found that half of agencies responding do not know the number of incarcerated fathers with child support obligations in their state yet of the 49 states responding, 21 have a policy in which the incarcerated father is obligated to continue to pay child support during incarceration.

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Updated 05/20/2006