Enforcement of Child Support
NJ Child Support Enforcement Attorneys
Protecting your rights, your children’s rights, and your family’s future
In the aftermath of a divorce or separation, co-parents don’t always see eye to eye on how much should be paid in child support. However, late, unpaid, or underpaid child support is a legal problem for the payor and a financial stress for the payee.
At Jacobs Berger, LLC, our child support attorneys have extensive experience in working with parents on both sides of the issue regarding unpaid support.
We help ensure that parents receive the agreed-upon payments to support their children—and that outdated requirements are adjusted in response to major life changes.
If your financial situation has changed and you’re no longer able to meet current obligations (or the child support payments you’re counting on aren’t being paid fully and on time), contact us for a strategic planning session today. We can help you protect your rights and your children’s rights.
How Child Support Agreements Can Be Enforced
Child support payments are part of a court order and thus a legal matter. The New Jersey Supreme Court created the state’s child support guidelines to standardize child support obligations in divorces and legal relationship dissolutions.
The child support guidelines consider many factors, including the incomes of both parents and other expenses related to their children. They should never leave one party unable to meet obligations.
Even though child support agreements tend to be fair and financially accurate, there are situations where a parent may not make the agreed-upon payments. When this becomes the case, the other parent may need to file a motion with the courts to intervene and secure the financial support that their children need and are legally entitled to.
With the help of your child support attorney, there are several ways in which the courts can then enforce child support agreements, including:
- Withholding income from the obligor’s paycheck
- Suspending a driver’s license or passport
- Credit reporting
- Seizure of property or assets
- Tax refund interception
- Seizure of lottery winnings
- Suspension of business licenses
- Judgments by the court for interest and fees
- Issuing a warrant for arrest, resulting in mandatory jail time
At Jacobs Berger, our knowledgeable child support attorneys can work with you to make sure that you and your child are receiving the agreed-upon payments you need.
Ways past-due child support payments can be collected in NJ
In the state of New Jersey, there are several ways in which child support that’s past due, or “in arrears,” can be collected.
In most circumstances, New Jersey law prohibits the retroactive modification of child support. Even if your co-parent is seeking to change future child support payments, they typically will still have to pay what’s already owed.
Unpaid child support that your co-parent has been ordered to pay is subject to late-payment interest and court action may also be taken by garnishing, or withholding, wages. Bank accounts, lottery winnings, and tax refunds may also be seized. As overdue payments begin to accrue, additional measures may be taken.
At $1,000 in arrears, the debt is reported to credit agencies. At $2,500 owed, passports may not be renewed. After six months of nonpayment, driving, recreational, and occupational licenses may be suspended. At the most extreme end of the spectrum, a parent may be arrested for failing to meet a child support order.
How a Child Support Attorney Can Help You
A child support attorney can help with unpaid child support and enforcement by working with you to pursue remedies through the proper legal channels.
The family law attorneys at Jacobs Berger have extensive experience in helping parents draft fair and reasonable child support settlements. They also work with parents to enforce those settlements when necessary.
Help with enforcement of child support orders
In New Jersey, parents who aren’t receiving their agreed-upon payments have two options when it comes to enforcing an existing child support order.
The first option is through the New Jersey Department of Human Services (also known as the Probation Department). The DHS performs a variety of functions and has the authority to take measures for child support enforcement. Parents who are currently receiving child support payments through this department don’t actually have to take any action when it comes to alerting the department of the outstanding child support payments, as the department will automatically seek enforcement for child support obligations greater than two weeks outstanding. However, in cases where the receiving parent has helpful information about the parent who owes support (new job, new home, new car, etc.), that information can be provided to your caseworker to aid the department in their collection efforts.
However, as the DHS is a public institution, parents may not always receive the timely or personal attention from DHS agents that they may require in matters as critical to them as child support enforcement.
When this is the case, parents may instead choose the second option, which is to work with a child support attorney. In this situation, the parent and their attorney can file a child support enforcement motion with the family law courts directly.
Help with unpaid child support
A child support agreement is a legal obligation to pay your co-parent a set amount each month for the benefit of your child. Missing a payment—or making a late payment—has consequences for all involved.
If payments are missed, the custodial parent and child can face financial stress and the payor will face late payment interest on top of still having to make the initial payment.
Nonpayments can quickly snowball as the amount owed continues to grow and additional consequences pile up. In these situations, it’s better to try to address the situation head-on (with the help of your child support attorney) than to wait until a large amount of money is owed.
Although the New Jersey system for calculating child support tries to avoid this, there are times when payments are set too high. Additionally, financial (or life) circumstances may have changed from when the payment amount was initially agreed upon.
If your financial or life circumstances have changed since the initial agreement was made, we recommend working with your attorney to seek a child support modification that makes the payments more realistic and reduces the stress on everyone involved.
NJ Unpaid Child Support FAQs
Child support owed in arrears is generally not forgiven by the court in New Jersey. Typically, you’ll have to pay child support already accrued—even if you’re now seeking a modification. Therefore, it’s especially important to act promptly when it comes to modifying an agreement.
If your or your co-parent’s financial circumstances have changed significantly since the time of divorce, then you may want to seek a modification.
Modifications may occur because either parent experiences:
- A change in employment or earnings
- A change in cost of living
- Loss of a home
- Extended injury or illness
To seek a modification, talk with your child support attorney. They can help you file a motion for modification and pursue proper legal action to ensure you can keep making appropriate and realistic payments.
In New Jersey, child support payments are determined by a set formula. However, if your original agreement no longer makes sense, there are several paths for determining a new one.
First, you may be able to talk with your co-parent and reach a new agreement. In these circumstances, you can work with a child support attorney to draft a new legal agreement, which you’ll both need to sign and turn in to the court.
Second, if you want to work with your co-parent to reach an agreement outside the courts but feel you need support in talking through it, you may choose to pursue alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as mediation. In ADR, you and your co-parent will work with your child support attorneys to reach an agreement under the guidance of a neutral third party.
Finally, if the first two methods don’t seem like a good fit for your situation or have failed to produce a new agreement, you may choose to file a motion for a modification with the courts. Your attorney can help you gather all the information needed and guide you through the process.
If you don’t pay child support in New Jersey, you face a long list of potential consequences. Initially, you’ll be charged interest on late payments and may have wages withheld from your paycheck.
If you continue not to make timely or complete payments, your assets or property may be seized, tax refunds may be intercepted, and your occupational or driver’s license may be suspended. In the most extreme situations, a judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
Since the consequences for nonpayment can quickly land you in a challenging situation, it’s important to act promptly to pursue child support modification instead of skipping payments. Your child support attorney can guide you through the modification process.
Work with an Experienced NJ Family Law Firm
At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have years of experience in working on child support cases in New Jersey family courts.
We stay up to date on the latest changes to family law and our work with co-parents in writing settlements, making modifications, and ensuring enforcement means that we understand child support from all angles.
If you need child support enforcement or are falling behind on payments and would like to seek a modification, contact us for a strategic planning session. Our experienced child support attorneys can guide you through the process and work with you to ensure your legal rights.