Can I Be Forced to Pay Back Child Support?

Most people are familiar with the term “deadbeat dad,” which refers to a non-custodial parent who fails to make court-ordered child support payments or provide emotion. While either parent may be ordered to pay child-support, traditionally it is more common for the dad to be the primary breadwinner while the mother takes care of the children. Despite the fact that societal roles have changed and evolved over the years, the term “deadbeat dad” has stuck. In New Jersey, if you are the non-custodial parent, you are legally required to make child support payments in full and on time. If you fall behind, or fail to make the required child support payments, you could face legal consequences ranging from wage garnishment to possible jail time. If you are struggling to make child support payments, or you have any questions or concerns about payment obligations, do not hesitate to contact a dedicated child custody lawyer.

What Is Back Child Support?

Part of the divorce process involves making decisions on important parenting and custody issues. The parent who is awarded primary or sole custody of the children will likely receive child support payments from the non-custodial parent. If the non-custodial parent fails to make child support payments after the divorce has been finalized, the missed payments are considered back child support, or child support arrears, which is the legal term for past-due child support. In order for your former spouse to be able to collect past-due support, there must be an official order in place that specifies who is responsible for making the payments and the amount of support that must be paid.

How Are Overdue Child Support Payments Collected?

If you fall behind on your child support payments, this is a violation of a court order. Your former spouse has a legal right to those payments, and they may take legal action in order to obtain the payments that are owed. The following are examples of enforcement measures that may be taken against you:

  • Wage garnishment: A court order will direct your employer to withhold payments and send it to the government to disperse.
  • Placing a lien against your home or other property: A lien is a legal claim that is placed against real estate property or personal property like stocks, bonds, jewelry or other property of significant value. This gives your former spouse security interest in the property, which means that they are entitled to the proceeds from the sale of that property. 
  • Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UIB) Intercept: If you are collecting unemployment, any overdue child support payments will be deducted from your weekly benefit payment until you are caught up on your payment obligations.
  • Overdue child support will be deducted from tax refund. If you owe back child support, overdue payments may be deducted from your federal and state income tax refunds.
  • Credit Bureau Submission: Delinquent support payments may result in your name being forwarded to the three major credit reporting agencies, including Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. This can lower your credit score, which can make it more difficult to get a loan or extend credit until your debt has been paid.
  • License suspension: If you are behind on your child support payments by six months or more, the court may order that your driver’s license be suspended
  • Obtaining lottery winnings: If you win $600 or more in lottery prize money, the amount that you owe in child support will be deducted from your winnings.
  • Passport denial: Your application for a passport may be denied if you owe more than $5,000 in child support. You may be able to contest the decision if you owe less than $5,000 or you must travel abroad for your job.

What If I Am Unable to Make Child Support Payments?

While you have a legal obligation to make your child support payment, you will not face jail time if you fall on hard times and do not have enough money to make payments. If you are struggling financially, you must file a motion with the court requesting a modification of child support. The modified support will reflect your current financial situation. If you fail to take this step, and simply stop making payments, your former spouse can take you to court. The judge will likely issue a default judgment of delinquency.

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Collecting Back Child Support?

In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for collecting child support is five years after the child reaches the legal age of emancipation. Until recently, the legal age of emancipation was 18, but changes in child support laws amended the age to 19. Child support obligations are terminated once the child reaches the age of 23. However, if the child suffers from a disability, a severe mental illness or a physical incapacity that prevents him or her from being able to support him or herself financially, child support payments may be extended, provided a medical expert can testify that the child requires ongoing financial support due to their mental or physical health issues.

What Is Retroactive Child Support?

Retroactive child support is unlike back child support in that it refers to the child support payments that the non-custodial parent is obligated to make prior to a child support order being issued. In some cases, the custodial parent may assume that they are entitled to retroactive child support if the non-custodial parent fails to make payments for several months or more. While some states allow retroactive child support under certain circumstances, it is not allowed in New Jersey. The only exception is if there is a motion for child support or a child support modification that is pending. If this is the case, you will be responsible for making support payments going back to the date that the motion was filed.

What Does the New Jersey Anti-Retroactivity Law State?

According to New Jersey law, when a child support order is awarded, it is strictly prospective, which means that only future payments are allowed. That means that if your former spouse did not seek child support for months or even years after filing for divorce, they cannot seek retroactive child support to cover that period of time. Your former spouse may only seek retroactive support from the date that the pending action or motion of child support was filed.

Can Modifications to Child Support Be Retroactive?

When there is a change in circumstances, the non-custodial parent may fall behind in child support payments. If you lose your job, or are unable to work due to an illness or injury, you may be unable to fulfill your child support obligations for a period of time. Once a child support order has been established, it can be revised – if circumstances warrant it. However, when it comes to obtaining retroactive child support payments, the adjustment cannot go further back than the date that the motions was filed with a New Jersey Family Court.

How Can a Child Custody Lawyer Help?

If you are responsible for making child support payments, and you owe back child support payments, or you have any other questions or concerns about child support, it is highly recommended that you contact an experienced child custody lawyer as soon as possible. While New Jersey law is very clear when it comes to retroactive child support, this is a complex of the law. A dedicated child custody lawyer will ensure that you have the right child support agreement in place, and provide you with the legal support you need if you are behind on your payments, or need to modify your child support order.

Morristown Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Clients with Complex Custody Issues

If you have questions or concerns about custody issues, including whether your former spouse is entitled to back child support or retroactive child support, contact the 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, Morristown, and Freehold, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.