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Making Sure That Child Support Gets Paid
My ex-husband is a dead beat and he owes me $15,000 in back child support arrears. What are my legal rights to try to collect these monies that are rightfully due to me?

Collecting child support in these hard economic times is no easy feat. Many child support "deadbeats" beats simply do not pay even if they are arrested. There are endless ways that you can try to collect your child support arrears. However, no matter how many different laws that New Jersey enacts to try to collect child support, there are still an endless amount of "dead beat" parents out there. The major problem with the collection of child support arrears is because there is a major shortage of manpower to ensure that the current child support laws are enforced. The amount of staffing in the local county probation offices is woefully insufficient. You can see the difference in the collection of child support in the counties that are not overwhelmed with child support files. The less files that probation handles, then the more efficient they are in the collection any arrears.

In my opinion the major problem with the collection of child support arrears is that there is a lack of man power to oversee the enforcement of these laws! More money should be spent on the probation departments and on the sheriff departments to ensure that the "deadbeats" pay. Moreover, the UIFSA provisions must be enforced more efficiently. It is common knowledge that if the "heat" gets too intense on a non-custodial parent to pay child support arrears, then many parents skip town and move out of state. It is extremely difficult to collect child support once a parent moves out of Jersey. If the country can send men to the moon, then we certainly should be able to collect child support.

In summary the enforcement of child support obligations includes:

  • Ensuring that current child support is paid;
  • Collecting past-due child support;
  • Ensuring health care coverage; and
  • Collecting spousal support obligations when spousal support is ordered with child support.

Income withholding

The most common method to collect child support is through income withholding or commonly known as a wage garnishment. The child support computers can find the cases that are eligible for income withholding and send a notice to the employer telling the employer the court-ordered amount, including any arrears if applicable, to deduct from the non-custodial parent's paycheck.

If the non-custodial parent has more than one child support order, then the total amount withheld from that parent's income would be allocated among all the cases.

Employers' payments, as well as all individuals' payments are sent to one location through the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) system.

Also, if an employee is identified using the New Hires Directory, then the state will issue notification of income withholding to the employer within two business days.

Unemployment/Workers' Compensation Benefits

If the non-custodial parent is receiving unemployment benefits, then the Child Support Program through the New Jersey Department of Labor can take child support out of the unemployment payment. The same applies to workers' compensation benefits of non-custodial parents who owe child support.

Credit reporting

A non-custodial parent who owes $1,000 or more in past-due child support could have this fact reported to credit agencies. The parent will be notified that his or her name, Social Security number and the amount owed may be sent to the credit agency.

The notice states that the non-custodial parent can request a review if he disagrees with the amount owed by sending a written request within 35 calendar days of the date on the notice. The Administrative Office of the Courts then reviews the request.

In cases where the Child Support Program requests a consumer report from a credit reporting agency in order to establish a non-custodial parent's capacity to make child support payments, then the non-custodial parent will be notified by regular and certified mail to 10 days prior to requesting such information from a credit reporting agency.

Lottery prize intercept

If a non-custodial parent owes past due child support and wins $600 or more in the lottery, the amount owed in child support will be deducted from the winnings and applied to the past due child support.

A notice will be sent to the non-custodial parent advising of the Child Support Program's intent to take the lottery winnings. The notice will include:

  • The amount of past support owed.
  • Notification that an appeal based on wrong information must be made in writing within 10 business days of the date of the notice.
  • Notification that if no appeal is received, the amount on the notice will be withheld and applied to the child support debt.
  • Notification that any excess lottery winnings will be sent directly to the non-custodial parent by the Division of Lottery.

Tax refund offset

If the amount of unpaid child support meets or exceeds the limits below, and the non-custodial parent is entitled to a federal or state tax refund or a homestead rebate, that refund may go to pay the child support order.

Federal tax offset:

  • In public assistance cases, the amount of unpaid support must be at least $150.
  • In non-public assistance cases, the amount of unpaid support must be at least $500. If you had ever received public assistance and there are arrears due the public assistance agency, those arrears must be paid first.

State tax and homestead rebate offset:

The amount of unpaid support must be more than one month of the individual's support obligation.

For state tax offsets, the Division of Taxation will notify all taxpayers whose refunds or rebates are subject to offset due to past due child support. The notice will state that the taxpayer has 35 calendar days from the notice date to file an appeal in writing with the Office of Child Support and Paternity Programs.

To appeal a federal tax offset, a non-custodial parent can request a review by the county Probation Child Support Unit. An offset can be appealed for the following reasons: a) if the amount of arrears owed is considered in error, or b) if the return is a joint return and the other spouse is not responsible for the child support debt.

Seizure of assets

If the non-custodial parent has money in the bank, or owns stocks and bonds, then the child support office may be able to take those assets to pay the support and any arrears.

Each financial institution doing business in the state will provide information on all non-custodial parents who maintain an account there and who owe child support that equals or exceeds the amount of support payable for three months and for which no regular payments are being made.

This information can be obtained in two ways. Either the financial institution provides a list that the Child Support Program matches against its database, or the Child Support Program provides the institution with a list of child support debtors that is matched against the institution's records.

If there is a match, the Child Support Program can freeze the account and attach the account with a lien or levy. The funds can be surrendered to the child support agency and applied to monies owed.

The Child Support Program will notify the account holder of the intent to levy the account and the right to appeal. The non-custodial parent will have 30 days from the date on the notice to appeal and the assets will not be distributed until the appeal date has passed or the appeal has been resolved by the child support agency.

License suspension

If the child support payments have not been paid for six months or more, then the court may order the licensing agency to suspend, revoke or deny any licenses the non-custodial parent has or is applying for. This includes driving, professional, occupational, recreational or sporting licenses.

A driver's license will be automatically revoked if a non-custodial parent receives a warrant for his or her arrest.

The non-custodial parent has 30 days to either pay the owed amount or send a letter asking for a review by the Administrative Office of the Court (AOC). The AOC will try to resolve the matter administratively. If that is not possible, a court hearing is scheduled.

Passport denial

A passport application can be denied if the non-custodial parent owes more than $5,000 in child support. The Child Support Program will refer these cases to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which works with the U.S. State Department to deny passport applications or renewals for anyone whose name is on the list.

If the application or renewal is denied, the non-custodial parent can contest the decision through the Child Support Program if:

  • the child support due is less than $5,000; or
  • travel abroad is required for work.

The Office of Child Support will review the matter and send it to the Administrative Office of the Courts for resolution if necessary.

Civil awards/settlements

Any money that the non-custodial parent may get as part of a court-awarded lawsuit or settlement may go toward past-due child support payments.

During the 30 days before monies are given to the non-custodial parent, the Probation Division, in cooperation with the Clerk of the Superior Court and the Child Support Program will review the records to determine if he or she owes child support. The non-custodial parent and his or her attorney will be notified of the findings.

Attorneys who forward the monies to the Child Support Program within the 30-day time frame will not be liable to the litigant or to the litigant's creditors.

Judgments

A judgment is recorded by the clerk of the Superior Court creating a claim against the non-custodial parent when money is past due on an order. This means the amount due must be paid and satisfied before property, such as a house, can be sold or transferred.

Court enforcement

If the above enforcement methods do not apply or are unsuccessful, additional court action may be necessary.

At a hearing, the court can decide what action to take against a non-custodial parent who owes child support. Both parents will receive notices to appear in court. The court will hear the case, examine the facts and reach a decision based on the case.

The decision could include:

  • An order that requires the non-custodial parent to get into a job placement program.
  • An order to require the delinquent support is paid in full.
  • An order to require a payment schedule for the delinquent amount in addition to regular support payments.
  • An order placing the non-custodial parent in jail.

Warrants

Child support warrants are issued for several reasons, including situations where:

  • the non-custodial parent does not appear for court dates to establish paternity or support; or
  • the non-custodial parent does not appear for an enforcement hearing for not paying support; or
  • the non-custodial parent disregards the terms of the court decree.
Any warrants in child support cases are issued by the Family Court and signed by a judge. The signed warrant is then forwarded to the county sheriff who will then arrest the individual.


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New Jersey has five types of spousal support. Rehabilitative alimony is a short-term monetary award that allows a spouse to go back to school or obtain training to re-enter the workforce. Limited duration alimony is awarded in cases of a short marriage when rehabilitative alimony doesn't apply. Reimbursement alimony is awarded when one spouse makes a personal sacrifice so that the other spouse could receive professional or career training. Alimony pendente lite is awarded when a divorce is pending so that both parties can maintain their current standard of living until a final judgment is made. Finally, there is permanent alimony which is usually appropriate in long term marriages and typically terminates upon the death of either party or remarriage.
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