Child support cases and rulings can be tricky to understand and keep up with after a ruling has been reached, equally for the custodial parent and non-custodial parent. Even more confusing are the ramifications that child support payments can have on future court rulings involving the debtor. Depending on the court ruling, these effects are complicated further if the debtor maintains a record of child support payments that have not been paid to satisfaction.
New Jersey child support is similar to child support in any other state: a court case is held to determine custody of a child in the event that a couple wishes to separate. In the ruling, a guardian or custodian is decided and a debtor is identified. A custodian is in charge of the care of the child, as well as responsible for the welfare and well-being of the child until, legally, the child reaches the age of majority. The age of majority means that a child is legally considered an adult and he or she is barred from receiving continuing child support payments. In the case of NJ child support, the age of majority is 19. However, there are other factors that can extend the duration of child support payments in New Jersey, including:
- The child has a mental or physical disability
- College tuition and other fees
- Other outlying factors specific to a custody case ruling
If a child becomes financially dependent at the age of 18, the debtor in the child support agreement, i.e. the one who is making child support payments to the custodian, can appeal the court to get the child expunged from the agreement, meaning that the child no longer requires the payments in order to financially maintain his or her quality of life.
NJ Child Support Payments
Federal law mandates that all payments must be made by income withholding, meaning that a debtor’s (one parent’s) employer directly withholds funds from the debtor’s paycheck in order to automatically pay child support without any manual action. This is the preferred method of payment as it guarantees that a custodian receives timely child support payments on a regular schedule; it can also provide assurance to the debtor that child support payments are being made regularly and on time. Income withholding will also be deducted from unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits and other income that the parent may receive from the federal government, state or other programs.
If the debtor in a child support payment program stops making payments, or refuses to make the scheduled payments decided in a court ruling, there is a variety of enforcement options that the state of New Jersey utilizes, including but not limited to:
- Credit Reporting
- Lottery Prize & Jackpot Interception
- Tax Refund Offset
- Seizure Of Assets
- License & Passport Suspension Or Denial
- Civil Awards/Settlements
Credit reporting takes effect when the amount of back child support payments due equals or is greater than $1,000. When this happens, the backed payments are reported to credit agencies which results in lower credit scores, and can prevent the debtor from purchasing a house or vehicle, among other financial transactions.
Lottery Prize & Jackpot Interception in enacted when a debtor with arrears child support payments wins a sum of money from a lottery or drawing; the winnings are intercepted and the amount owed for child support is deducted. Tax refund offsets deal with federal and state tax returns: if the debtor with backed payments is receiving a tax return, it may go towards the child support that is owed.
Seizure of assets applies to money in a debtor’s bank account or has a pending insurance liability claim. In either case, the funds from these scenarios will go towards the owed child support payments. If a warrant is issued for the debtor for failing to make child support payments, any license issued by the state or federal government will be revoked or denied. Any attempt to renew or apply for a license will also be denied. Similarly, if the backed amount owed by the debtor is $2,500 or more, any renewal or application for a passport will be denied until the amount owed is paid in full.
Warrants for arrest may also be issued if a court date or payment has been missed by a debtor in a custody case. Civil warrants issued as the result of a missed custody court date or child support payment can lead to incarceration depending on the circumstances.
Civil awards and settlements are also directly affected by arrears child support payments. Any monetary or compensation awarded as the result of a court ruling is subject to the owed child support payments.
Child Support Judgment Searches
A child support judgment search allows attorneys and other professionals to satisfy the statutory requirement of checking if their client is someone who is receiving monetary or other compensation as the result of a court ruling or settlement. If back payments are owed, the compensation awarded as part of a settlement could be affected, as backed payments, also commonly referred to as arrears in child support cases, take precedent over any winnings or compensation a debtor may be awarded for unrelated cases.
Failure to carry out a statutory child support judgment search before releasing settlements or other awards to a debtor that owes backed child support can result in penalties for the debtor and the acting attorney.
If your client, or potential client, is subject to any of the scenarios, use a trusted public record search provider to guarantee that the results of a child support judgment search are accurate and timely.