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The Consequences of Unpaid Child Support in New Jersey

By Jamie Berger, Esq.

Even the most loving, supportive parent can find themselves in a financial bind at times. Losing a job, medical expenses, family emergencies—these can all impact a parent’s ability to meet their financial obligations, including paying child support. 

No parent wants to default on supporting their child, but all parents should be aware that failure to pay child support in New Jersey can lead to significant consequences for both parents and the children involved. Beyond any exacerbating family tension or financial burdens, a potentially short-term financial situation can turn into one with long-lasting legal implications.         

It’s essential to understand the implications of missing child support. Understanding how it impacts all sides can help you identify the right solution for your family and protect your relationship with your child. 

Initial Consequences of Unpaid Child Support

Just the act of delaying a child support payment can start a stressful pattern of accumulation. 

If a parent falls behind and misses a week of child support payments in New Jersey, the support payment due the week after will add on any overdue payments. For example, if a parent owes $500 in unpaid support, they may need to pay $100.00 to pay off the balance. $10 in arrears may also be added, making the payment $110.00 a week until the $500.00 is paid off.  

This can quickly snowball into a vicious cycle of further late payments and financial stress. 

When a family reaches a modification of child support, New Jersey law allows the updated agreement to apply retroactively to payments under the following circumstances:    

  • To the date of filing an application
  • 45-day notice sent out under a statute 
  • By consent to a date the parties can agree upon

If you find yourself unable to meet your obligations, time is of the essence to submit a modification. Once a parent falls too far behind on their child support obligation, a court can take additional measures which could significantly impact a parent’s circumstances. Reach out immediately to an attorney experienced in family law and child support matters. 

Long-Term Consequences of Unpaid Child Support

If a parent finds that their co-parent has fallen significantly behind on child support payments, or if they refuse to pay their support obligation, then the court offers legal channels to remedy the situation. 

If a parent gets too far behind on their child support in New Jersey, the party receiving child support can request, or the court can require, the following measures:

  1. Withholding income to pay child support payments: If the parent who owes child support has regular employment, the court will send a notice to their employer. The employer will then implement any ongoing deductions as calculated by the Court from that parent’s paychecks. Those funds will be sent to New Jersey’s Family Support Center for distribution until the child support obligation is satisfied.
  2. Suspension of a driver’s or other professional licenses: If child support payments are at least six months overdue, then at or following a routine enforcement hearing, the court may suspend, revoke, or deny any driving, professional, occupational, or recreational licenses. 
  3. Issuance of a bench warrant: If the parent fails to appear for a court date or fails to comply with a court order, then the court may issue a warrant, which could lead to arrest and incarceration. 
  4. Interception of a tax refund: Depending on the amount owed, the state of New Jersey may redirect a party’s state or federal tax return to pay a child support order. 
  5. Suspension of passport renewal and application privileges: If an account reaches $2,500 in arrears or more, the parent will be unable to renew or apply for a passport.
  6. Credit reporting: Once an account has at least $1,000 in arrears, a parent’s failure to pay is reported to the credit reporting agencies. 
  7. Seizure of assets: If the non-custodial parent demonstrates a refusal to pay child support, then the Child Support Office may be able to seize any assets in the bank or whatever a party holds in stocks or bonds. 

These court penalties are meant to ensure that children get the support that they are entitled to and to protect the family’s financial security.

While these measures are sometimes required to enforce child support payments, the consequences can be long-lasting. If a parent finds themselves in an unexpected financial situation that makes it extremely difficult to manage a child support obligation, then it may be time to consider a modification of the support order

Modifications of Child Support

If a party experiences substantial changes and finds themselves financially unable to fulfill the original child support obligation, it may be time to consider filing a request for modification.   

Child support modifications can stem from major life changes that were unforeseeable at the time of divorce, such as the gain or loss of employment or unexpected medical issues. A modification could alter the amount of child support required moving forward, allowing all parties to come to a practical solution. However, modifications take time and collaboration with your co-parent. It’s best to handle any issues with child support payments proactively.   

Find the Solution For You With an Experienced Legal Team

For issues regarding child support in New Jersey, it’s important to work with a team you can trust. At Jacobs Berger, LLC, our attorneys have decades of combined experience helping our clients modify and enforce child support orders.

We work with you to maintain the stability of your family’s life while also building the foundation for a secure future.

If you’re concerned about the enforcement or modification of any aspect of your child support order or settlement agreement, contact our family law firm today to discuss your unique situation and needs in a strategic planning session.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.