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April 2015Vol. 16, No. 3Modifying Child Support Orders for Incarcerated Parents

The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released a report about a behavioral intervention in Texas designed to support incarcerated noncustodial parents in modifying their child support orders. This intervention is part of OPRE's Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency project, which uses a behavioral economics approach to improve programs that serve poor and vulnerable families. Child support staff in Texas noticed that less than one-third of incarcerated parents took advantage of the modification program, which allowed them to temporarily decrease the amount of their child support order, thereby decreasing the debt they accrue while incarcerated and easing their reentry to the community.

Project staff conducted an analysis of the modification packet and determined potential behavioral reasons for parents not applying. They then designed a revised packet and tested it using intervention and control groups. Parents receiving the revised packet were more likely to apply for child support order modifications than those receiving the standard packet (39 percent versus 28 percent).

Additional information about the intervention, including the full report Taking the First Step: Using Behavioral Economics to Help Incarcerated Parents Apply for Child Support Order Modifications, is available on the OPRE website at