It's a major headache for everyone when a
parent refuses to pay his or her court ordered child support. This is a
serious problem of national dimensions. A recent study found that less
than half the parents awarded child support receive payment in full. The
U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 1999, non-custodial parents failed to
pay $13 billion the owed in child support payments. This failure is
a major cause of poverty in children.
receiving public assistance - In
New Jersey, each county has established a child support enforcement
agency that can assist you in collecting child support from your
spouse. This agency has responsibility for collecting child support
for families receiving cash assistance.
However, you may also apply for help even if
you are not receiving cash
assistance. If you do receive cash
assistance in New Jersey, you must assign child support rights to the
state. You must also help to locate the parent who
is absent from the home.
If you do not cooperate, you may be denied public assistance benefits.
not receiving public assistance - Services
are available to non-public assistance parents by the payment of a
non-refundable $25 fee. If you are representing yourself, and you are
not on cash assistance, applying to the
child support agency in your county for help
is an excellent method of obtaining legal representation at minimal
A child support order is as enforceable as
any other court judgment or decree. A parent who is owed child support can
use each and every legal tool available to enforce the order, including
wage garnishments, wage assignments, contempt
of court decrees and the seizure of the non-payor's property by writ
Government's Parent Locator Service
Nonpaying parents may
hide from the custodial parent in order to avoid their child support
obligation. They may even go so far as to move out of state to avoid their
In order to fix this problem, the federal
government has created the Parent Locator Service (The law also
requires the states to establish a Parent Locator Services). The
law allows you to use the resources of the federal government (including
the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service) to
locate a nonpaying parent's employer. Once found, the custodial parent or
the state can enforce the child support order and collect unpaid support
recovering support from tax refunds. The law also permits the IRS to
pay past due child support from tax refunds that
the nonpaying parent is due from the
For more information on the Parent Locator
Service, contact the local office of the Department
of Health and Human Services.
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a Wage Assignment
A wage assignment is a special procedure that
allows the court to order an employer to make direct payments to the
custodial parent from the wages of the supporting parent. You can apply to
the court for a wage assignment. Notice of this action must be served on
the paying parent's employer. The employer will
deduct child support like any other deduction from the paying parent's
paycheck and send the money directly to the custodial parent. If
the nonpaying parent holds a steady job, this is a very valuable tool.
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a Writ of Execution
A child support order can be enforced just
like other court judgments. The court can seize assets of the
nonpaying parent such as real property, bank accounts, stock, a paid-off
car or other property. If you want to try this
method of enforcing child support, it is a good
idea to find an experienced attorney.
If you choose to go forward on your own,
you should be aware that the New Jersey Court Rules
provide a wide variety of means to execute on judgments.
- A judgment creditor (you) can use legal
methods to find out whether a debtor (the non-paying parent) has
assets and where the assets are located, if you have a money judgment.
- One rule provides for the issuance of a
writ of execution which is used to obtain real and personal property
of the debtor or to exclude the debtor from having access to or use of
personal property or to remove it from the premises.
- Also the sheriff will use to post notice
of the writ of execution on real property and to remove, label, or
post notice of the attachment of personal property.
If you are not successful obtaining the
property using the methods described above, you have other choices. For
example, you can garnish the property of the judgment debtor. Generally a
writ of garnishment is used when a third party is holding property of the
judgment debtor (no-paying parent). The rule
states when the writ may be filed and what information shall be included
in the writ.
In addition to the methods of securing a wage
lien offered in the New Jersey Rules, the legislature has passed laws to
assist recipients of support to collect the funds due them from parents
ordered to pay child support.
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Civil Contempt of Court Action.
If a person willfully disobeys a lawful child
support order, s/he can be jailed for contempt
of court. The civil contempt action is brought by the custodial parent.
The court clerk will have the proper forms. After that, the nonpaying
parent will have to be notified (served with
process) since he or she has the Constitutional
right to appear at the hearing and present a defense. If the nonpaying
parent is served and does not appear, the trial court will order a bench
warrant issued for his or her arrest.
If the court (finds beyond a reasonable
doubt) that the parent has willfully failed to pay valid child support
order, the court can order the nonpaying parent jailed. (A parent showing
that they did not have the ability to pay will not be found in contempt of
court, however s/he will continue to owe the money.)
Often, the mere threat of jail is
sufficient to pry open the non-paying parent's pocketbook. However, in
severe cases, parents will be jailed. Sometimes the jail sentence will end
only when the proper payment has been made.
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All states also have criminal laws
on the books to punish parents who refuse to pay their child support.
New Jersey law says a parent is required to support his/her child. A
person who violates the law may be fined up to $100 and/or imprisoned for
up to 3 years.
The state Child Support Enforcement
Administration tries to track down parents who owe child support and get
them to pay. . If you want help from the Child Support
Enforcement Administration to collect overdue child support, you can call
your local agency amd tell the person who answers that you want to open a
child support account. The agency will mail you a form to fill out
and will tell you how to make an appointment to see someone in your local
child support enforcement bureau.
Your local child support enforcement office
will forward information about your case to the child support unit of the
local State's Attorney's office. If you do not have court-ordered
child support, the State's Attorney will get a court order that the
non-paying parent must pay. The Child Support Enforcement
Administration will the enforce the order, and may take action such as
contacting the non-paying parent's employer to have child support withheld
from paychecks. If all the Administration's efforts fail, the
Administration will refer your case to the local State's Attorney's office
for criminal prosecution. If the
defendant (non-paying parent) is found guilty, he or she may be jailed or
the guilty parent may be put on probation and allowed to remain free if he
or she pays all back child support and makes all future payments in a
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You Can Use to Collect Child Support
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- A child support order may be enforced in
the following ways:
- Use of
Government's Parent Locater Service:
resources of federal government including Social Security
Administration and the Internal Revenue Service can be used to
locate non-paying parent via an employer. Once found, the
custodial parent or state can enforce the order and collect unpaid
child support. The law also permits the IRS to pay child support
arrears from tax refunds the non-paying parent may be owed by the
Assignment: the court can order an employer to make direct
payments to the custodial parent from the wages of the non-paying
of Writ of Execution: property can be seized upon proper
application to the court.
Contempt: Civil contempt is intended to (1)
preserve and enforce the rights of private parties to a
suit and (2) to compel obedience to
orders and decrees primarily made to benefit the
parties. A person charged with contempt can
resolve the charge by paying the past due child support.
- Uniform Enforcement of Support
Act: this permits a party to complain to the local district
attorney about unpaid child support by a parent who lives out of
state. The local district attorney can then contact a district
attorney in the locale where the non-paying parent lives. That
office can then bring an action to enforce the order.