Consequences of Failure to Pay Child Support While in Prison in NJ

Can my Child’s Other Parent Stop Making Payments if in Jail in New Jersey?

What are the Consequences of Failure to Pay Child Support While in Prison in NJ?With a dramatic increase in divorce rates and an incarceration rate that has increased by 500% in the past forty years, it is no wonder that child support issues arise when the payor of said support is in prison.  According to E.A. Carson’s article Prisoners in 2019, sourced by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, There are more than 2 million people incarcerated and another 5 million under supervision, such as probation.

In the past 30 years, child support debt has augmented tenfold, with the amount of child support debt over $100 billion, according to 2020 data from the Child Support Enforcement Office. 70% of the debt (5.5 million parents) belongs to those who earn $10,000 or less annually and owe, on average, $8,000 to $12,000 in child support.

One would be hard-pressed not to see a direct link between these two issues.  There are, however, procedures that, if completed correctly, can provide relief from mounting support debt while one is incarcerated. There are also options to enforce child support orders if your child’s other parent stops making payments while in prison in New Jersey. They can face serious consequences and be forced to continue providing support through alternative means if they simply stop paying to support your children without going through proper legal channels.

How are Child Support Payments Handled if the Payor is in Jail?

The support order stays in place, and the payor is expected to make regular payments unless they file for a modification of child support with the court to suspend or lower the payments until their release from prison.  Frequently, because they are unaware of the procedure or do not know how to request a modification, their child support debt (called arrears) continues to grow. A child support order cannot be changed retroactively, so it is vital that the modification be requested as soon as possible.

Is It Possible to Pause or Stop Child Support in NJ?

In New Jersey, it is possible to request a child support order modification due to incarceration. However, child support payments cannot be paused or stopped entirely due to imprisonment.  If the payor is not receiving an income while in jail, they may be able to request a modification of the child support order due to their changed circumstances. The court may adjust the child support payments based on the payor’s reduced income or inability to pay.

If a parent is incarcerated and cannot make child support payments, they can file a motion to modify the child support order based on their changed circumstances. The court will review the motion and consider factors such as the length of the incarceration, the reason for the detention, and the parent’s ability to pay child support once they are released from jail.

If the court grants a modification, the child support order may be adjusted to reflect the parent’s reduced income or inability to pay while incarcerated. However, the parent will still be responsible for making payments according to the modified child support order once released from jail and can earn an income again.

It’s important to note that failure to pay child support can result in serious consequences, including legal action and possible additional penalties. Therefore, it’s essential that the parent communicates with their attorney or state child support agency and follows any court orders related to child support payments, even in the event of incarceration.

What Are the Short-Term and Long-Term Consequences of Failure to Pay Child Support?

Failure to pay child support in New Jersey can have short-term and long-term consequences for the parent obligated to make payments.

Short-term consequences of failure to pay child support may include legal action. If a parent fails to make child support payments, the other parent or the state’s child support agency can take legal action to enforce the child support order. This may include filing a motion for contempt or seeking a wage garnishment order.  Parents who fail to pay child support can face fines and penalties, including suspension of their driver’s license and passport, seizure of their bank accounts, and even jail time.  It can result in negative marks on the parent’s credit report, making it difficult to obtain loans or credit in the future. Moreover, a low credit score may make getting a rent application approved.

Long-term consequences of failure to pay child support may include accumulated debt. Failure to pay child support can lead to significant debt over time, and missed payments may accrue interest and penalties.  Non-payment of child support can result in wage garnishments, limiting the parent’s ability to earn a living wage and pursue certain careers.  Parents who repeatedly fail to pay child support can face more severe legal consequences, including losing professional licenses and the possibility of jail. Additionally, they could be subject to suspending their passport renewal if the debt exceeds $2,500.  The payor’s assets can be seized, as well as their tax refund.

It is essential that parents communicate with their attorney or state child support agency and follow any court orders related to child support payments to avoid these consequences.

What Can We Learn From Sunil K. Tewarson v. New Jersey Department of Human Services?

If the Other Parent of My Child is in Jail, Can They Stop Making Payments?Sunil K. Tewarson presented an appeal after the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Office of Child Support Services, put a levy on his bank account to pay back child support.  Sunil argued that because he was in prison and then in a residential rehab facility, he had no income and was therefore, unable to pay.  He was incarcerated in late June 2014.  At that time, he was already more than $12,000 in arrears on child support, and as he did not pay any child support from July to December, his arrears grew to almost $20,000. He notified the Office of Child Support Services that he had no income and could not pay child support.

In January 2015, the Office of Child Support services advised Sunil that he had yet to request a modification of his child support payments through the proper channels.  He had asked his lawyer to submit a letter stating his incarceration dates. Still, without a court order to suspend his child support obligation, incarceration alone was not a legal reason to stop his support obligation. The levy on his account would continue.

Sunil appealed the decision to the New Jersey Appellate Court. It found that the New Jersey Department of Human Services had acted correctly and within the laws governing their power to seek support payments. Sunil was required to pay what he owed.  Until that was accomplished, the levy would stay on his account.

Explore Your Enforcement Options with our NJ Child Support Lawyers if the Payor is in Prison

If you need to enforce a child support order if your child’s parent is imprisoned in New Jersey, our seasoned family law attorneys are at the top of the legal field and are ready to take on your child support case in and throughout Northern New Jersey, no matter how complex it may seem. Suppose you are seeking child support from a noncustodial parent who is incarcerated, behind in payments, and has not requested a child support modification. In that case, we can help you find and access other assets they may have, such as bank accounts, rental properties, vehicles, or retirement accounts. Call our offices at (973) 233-4396 or contact us online for a free confidential consultation.


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