Statewide Efforts to Collect Delinquent Child Support Payments Results in 760 Arrests

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Earlier this month New Jersey law enforcement officials apprehended 760 parents who were delinquent on their child support payments, collecting about $130,996 of the $14,856,998 owed in back payments. In Warren County alone, 14 people, owing a combined $161,683, were arrested as part of this sweep and $240 in delinquent support payments was collected in Superior Court.(1)

This sweep, conducted over a three-day period from July 15 through July 17, was the sixth annual effort by the State’s Sheriff’s Association. Sheriff’s officers were assisted by other law enforcement agents in their efforts. The goal was to apprehend non-custodial parents who had fallen behind in their child support, as well as parents who failed to attend court hearings at which orders for child support or medical support were to be set.(1)

New Jersey law considers both parents responsible for supporting their children, regardless of the status of the parents’ relationship with each other. The State’s child support guidelines are modeled after the “Income Shares Model,” which looks at the total amount parents typically would spend to support a child under normal family conditions and then divide that amount between the two parents according to their individual incomes.(2)

Child support obligations are looked at seriously by New Jersey courts; judges are strict about their enforcement and about collecting payments that have fallen in arrears. The penalties for non-payment of child support obligations can be severe and may include jail time and the revocation of the parent’s driver’s license and any professional licenses he or she may hold. Additionally, passports may be suspended; bank assets, monetary awards for personal injury or workmen’s compensation cases, tax refunds and lottery winnings of the parent who falls behind in child support may be seized; payment arrearages may be reported to the major credit bureaus; and judgments may be placed on any New Jersey real estate the non-paying parent owns, which would prevent that person from refinancing the property as long as the support payments remain in arrears.(3)

Child support arrears fall into two categories: fixed arrears, or payments that a court has determined are due and owed, and unfixed arrears, which are past due payments that the court has not yet addressed. The receiving parent may request the court address these payments by filing an enforcement application.(3)

Payment of child support often is enforced by the local probation department, which will notify parents who fall behind in their payments, that such arrearages could result in those parents facing contempt proceedings. Once a parent is so informed and after they fall more than 14 days behind in payments, the probation office will notify the court of the arrears and can apply to the court for relief on behalf of the receiving parent. The probation department only gets involved, however, after divorce proceedings have been finalized.(3)

In New Jersey, there are some 400,000 child support cases involving the collection of about $1.6 million in payments each year. To help parents manage their child support payments, the State’s Department of Human Services now offers an app through which users can monitor the status of their payments, track disbursements, check the status of enforcement actions and set up court hearings if necessary.(4)

History has shown that convenience and accessibility to child support account information results in increased compliance with support orders, according to the State’s Division of Family Development under which the Office of Child Support is operated. Between May and September last year, 1.5 million people visited the State’s child support website and about one-third of those visitors accessed the site through a mobile device. The app was developed in an effort to simplify ways in which families can access their account information with the goal of encouraging additional compliance.(4)

(1) http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2014/07/nj_sheriffs_child_support_warr.html
(2) http://www.divorcenet.com/resources/divorce/divorce-and-children/child-support-new-jersey.htm
(3) http://www.divorcesource.com/ds/newjersey/child-support-arrearage-in-new-jersey-3902.shtml

(4) http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/06/got_child_support_in_nj_theres_an_app_for_that.html