One of the most important steps in the divorce process is ensuring that the couple’s children will be cared for after the divorce has been finalized. In most cases, a court order will require the noncustodial parents to make child support payments to the custodial parents. Until the court order for child support has been signed by a judge, the noncustodial parent is not legally required to make payments to the noncustodial parent.
If there is a signed child support order and the noncustodial parent falls behind on payments or refuses to meet their financial obligation, they could face serious consequences. If your former spouse is refusing to make support payments, including child support, there are steps you can take to ensure that you receive the payments that you are entitled to, including past-due support. If you have questions or concerns about child support, do not hesitate to contact a highly skilled child custody lawyer.
What Are My Legal Options If My Ex Fails to Make Child Support Payments?
The courts in New Jersey take alimony and child support very seriously. If you are the custodial parent and your former spouse is refusing to make the child support payments that were agreed upon in the child support order, the law is on your side. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you are urged to take the following steps:
- Make sure that you have a child support order. This is the first step to take if your ex is not making child support payments. This is a court document that states when, how often and how much a parent must pay child support. This document is usually part of the divorce decree.
- Gather evidence. The next step involves collecting proof that your ex has not been making child support payments. Since payments are generally made by check, money order, transfer to a bank account or an income withholding order, this makes collecting evidence easy. Request copies of bank statements to show that child support payments have not been deposited.
- Ask the court for a Child Support Enforcement Order. The next step involves requesting that the court enforce the child support order and possibly hold your ex in contempt of court. Oftentimes, this is done with the assistance of a child custody lawyer as it involves negotiating with the clerk of the court to reopen your case. These requests are made in a number of ways, including the following:
- A Motion of Enforcement: This basically states that you want the problems fixed, and you want your ex to comply with the request.
- A Motion for Contempt: In addition to asking the court to force your ex to comply, you are holding your ex in contempt. This urges your ex to comply with the court order, or compensate you for not doing what they are supposed to do. In extreme cases, you may request that your ex be incarcerated for unpaid child support.
- An Order to Show Cause: This request comes from the court. Once the court issues the Order, and a judge signs it, your ex must appear in court and “Show Cause” as to why they are not making the legally required child support payments. A hearing will be held, at which time you will present evidence that proves your case. Assuming the case goes well, the judge will order your ex to comply by paying a required amount of money within a certain amount of time.
What Are the Consequences of Failing to Pay Child Support?
In New Jersey, and every other state in the country, failing to pay child support is a state and federal crime. When a parent falls behind on a week or more of payments, they get added on to the next payment. If those payments are not made, this can quickly snowball into a cycle of additional late fees and financial stress. If the parent continues to fall behind, or refuses to meet their support obligation, the following are legal channels that can be taken to remedy the situation, and ensure that children get the financial support that they are entitled to:
- Withholding income. If the parent responsible for making child support payments has a regular job, the court will send a notice to their employer, notifying them that they are behind on their payments. Based on the Court’s calculations, the employer will make deductions from the parent’s paycheck. The funds are sent to New Jersey’s Family Support Center until the child support obligation has been met.
- Suspension of driver’s license. The court may suspend, revoke or deny any type of driving license if child support payments are six month or more past due.
- Bench warrant issued. If a parent does not comply with a court order, or fails to appear in court, a warrant may be issued by the court. This could lead to an arrest or incarceration.
- Interception of tax refund. In certain circumstances, the state of New Jersey may withhold a parent’s state or federal tax return and redirect it to pay a child support order.
- Seizure of assets. If the non-custodial parent refuses to make child support payments, the Child Support Office may take steps to seize assets, including funds that are in the bank, as well as stocks or bonds.
- Suspension of passport. A non-custodial parent may not renew or apply for a passport if their account reaches $2,500 or more in arrears.
- Credit reporting. The non-custodial parent’s refusal to pay child support will be reported to credit reporting agencies once an account has a minimum of $1,000 in arrears.
Are There Any Valid Defenses for Not Making Child Support Payments?
While your ex has a legal responsibility to ensure that you children are provided for financially, there are some extenuating circumstances that prevent them from facing some of the penalties discussed above. For example, if your former spouse lost their job, it may become very difficult, if not impossible to continue to make payments, particularly if he or she does not have any assets that can be used to meet their financial responsibilities. If the economic misfortune is not self-imposed, this is a defense to contempt. The key issue is whether the inability to pay is beyond their control.
What If My Ex Stops Making Payments Because They Moved to Another State?
Just because your ex moved across state lines does not mean that they are no longer obligated to make child support payments. There are a number of steps you can take to ensure that your ex meets their financial responsibility to your children. For example, you can contact your local Office of Child Support Services and use the agency’s parent locator service if you are having trouble contacting your ex. State child support agencies often have access to information about your ex, including where he was recently hired, unemployment insurance and criminal records. Once you have located your ex, you can start the process of enforcing the child support order.
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) also helps custodial parents enforce child support orders if the other parent moves to another state. The Act makes it very difficult for individuals to ignore a state’s child support order, simply because he or she moved to another state. The UIFSA will also ensure that your ex-spouse’s employer honors a garnishment request no matter what state issued the garnishment.
Child support disputes can be extremely stressful and overwhelming, particularly when your ex is not providing the financial support your children deserve. There are legal steps you can take to hold your ex accountable for their financial responsibility, and a dedicated child support lawyer can address all of your questions and concerns and recommend the best legal course of action moving forward.
Morristown Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Clients with Custody Issues
If you are dealing with serious custody issues, including an ex-spouse who refuses to make alimony or child support payments, you are urged to contact our experienced Morristown child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. as soon as possible. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.