How to Collect Unpaid Child Support in New Jersey
Unpaid child support puts a strain on all members of a family. Given too much time, late payment fees and other repercussions can escalate to the point where the payer cannot make payments.
In New Jersey, child support payments are part of a court order or consent agreement that both parents are legally bound to follow. However, for a number of reasons, the parent making the payments may fall behind.
Whether intentional or not, late payments harm the financial stability of the child, the parent receiving the payments, and the parent owing child support.
Fortunately, there are several tiered approaches to enforcing child support orders and collecting overdue child support in New Jersey.
How are child support orders enforced?
With the help of a child support attorney, unpaid child support can be enforced in New Jersey courts. Receiving these payments is your legal right, and the New Jersey legal system takes the violation of this right seriously.
If you don’t receive the agreed-upon child support payments in full or on time, the courts have several methods to ensure that these payments are made, including:
- Wage garnishment, i.e. withholding child support payments from a paycheck (Note: New Jersey courts prefer to use this method to secure payments upfront)
- Seizure of property or assets
- Interception of tax refunds
- Interception of lottery winnings
- Implementation of late payment penalties (commonly known as arrears payments, which are added to the initial obligation)
- Outstanding Child Support Credit Report
If these methods do not lead to the full and timely payment of current child support and the recovery of past and unpaid child support, courts have an additional level of actions they can take, including:
- Suspension of a business license
- Suspension of driver’s license and/or passport
- Issuance of a warrant of arrest, which carries a mandatory jail sentence
These escalating responses are designed to put increasing pressure on the parent who owes payments.
Sometimes a real change in circumstances can affect a co-parent’s ability to pay. In this case, your co-parent may be entitled to an “ability to pay” hearing.
This is one of the many reasons why it is recommended that you contact a family law attorney when an unpaid child support pattern becomes apparent so that the issue can be resolved quickly, whether by through a scheduled hearing or other collection action.
What you can do about unpaid child support
If your co-parent has fallen behind on child support, you have several courses of action.
If this is a one-time incident, it may be worth contacting your co-parent to see what’s going on. However, if unpaid child support becomes a habit, you should take legal action. Typically, this means working with a lawyer to ask the courts for prompt enforcement of child support owed.
Although the situation can be extremely frustrating and even frightening, it is important that you do not withhold the parenting time that has been outlined in your custody agreement from your co-parent. Receiving agreed-upon child support payments is your legally enforceable right. Your child support attorney and the courts will work with you to make sure you are not denied this right. However, paying child support and access to parenting time do not go hand in hand, and neither should be used as bargaining chips.
Even if your co-parent has lost their job and is successful in seeking a temporary reduction in payments, they will still have to pay what they already owe. Failure to do so can result in a host of repercussions for them, including being found in contempt of court.
Many parents rely on child support and losing this support can put them at financial risk. If your co-parent makes late payments or makes no payments at all, we strongly recommend that you speak to an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer can help you navigate the court system to collect unpaid child support and ensure regular payments resume.
Procedures for recovering unpaid child support
New Jersey courts have several methods for collecting unpaid child support. The most popular is known as wage garnishment, which means that money is withheld from the payor’s paycheck and deposited into the recipient’s account.
However, the courts understand that not all people earn their primary income through paychecks or what is shown on a W-2 form. Therefore, there are additional methods to ensure receipt of payments. If necessary, the courts can intercept other forms of income, such as lottery winnings, tax refunds or unemployment. They can even seize assets or place a lien on the property to prevent it from being sold or transferred.
Courts can also implement more direct consequences for default, such as suspending a business license until debts are paid, suspending a driver’s license or passport , or the solvency statement of what the parent owes in outstanding debt.
New Jersey has a very detailed method for calculating fair and reasonable child support payments, and your co-parent has a legal obligation to make those payments. The courts and your family law attorney will help you make sure you receive the agreed-upon financial support for your child.
Who to contact about unpaid child support in New Jersey
Unpaid child support puts a strain on all members of a family. Given too much time, late payment fees and other repercussions can escalate to the point where the payer cannot make payments. In the meantime, the beneficiary may find himself in an increasingly precarious situation because the expected aid does not arrive.
If you are having trouble with unpaid child support, you should contact a child support attorney or the NJ courts for help as soon as possible.