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WHAT IF MY EX STOPS PAYING CHILD SUPPORT?

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Unfortunately, unpaid child support is a not an uncommon frustration among custodial parents; however, there are a number of options available for enforcement and modification of child support orders in accordance with federal and New Jersey Law.

Financial and emotional support are critical to a child’s well-being and when one parent does not take this responsibility seriously, it should not be overlooked. Child support covers the financial component of a child’s well-being, providing compensation for ongoing expenses associated with basic needs until the child reaches age 18 or is no longer enrolled in high school or secondary education.child support

Under NJ family law, the right to child support belongs to the child and not the parent, which means that its purpose is not to protect either parent but solely to protect the best interest of the child. Parental obligation to pay child support remains the same regardless of the state of the parent-child relationship. While child support requests are commonly made during divorce proceedings, parents who are legally separated or do not live with one another are bound by this legal obligation.

If your child’s parent stops paying child support, the best course of action is to consult an experienced New Jersey family law attorney and seek enforcement of the existing child support order. If the obligor, the parent who owes child support, lives in another state, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) will ensure enforcement and modification can take place with no conflict due to orders issued by courts of different states. While UIFSA enhances the court’s ability to enforce child support orders that were issued in another jurisdiction, it restricts NJ courts from entering or modifying an order established by a court with jurisdiction. It also gives NJ courts jurisdiction over non-resident defendants. Under UIFSA only one support order exists at a given time.

Fortunately, New Jersey has a wide range of child support enforcement methods in accordance with Rule 5:7-5. Some of the most common and effective methods include:

  1. INCOME WITHHOLDING: wage garnishment, in which income is withheld from the obligor’s paycheck, is one of the most effective ways of enforcement. Pursuant to N.J.S. 2A:4-30.97 through N.J.S. 2A:4-30.103, an employer notified of an income withholding order must comply with the order regardless of what state is was registered. Income withholding may also be applied to all incomes used to calculate support including unemployment, workers’ compensation, and certain disability benefits.
  2. NJ CHILD SUPPORT LIEN ACT: a child support judgment establishes an automatic prioritized lien against the net proceeds in excess of $2,000 of any lawsuit judgment or settlement, arbitration award, workers’ compensation award, or inheritance. 
  3. FINANCIAL INSTITUTION DATA MATCH: if child support is three months behind, the obligor’s financial assets will be subject to seizure. The financial institution is required to surrender the assets after proper notice and a 30 day contest period. A separate court order must be established for the probation department to identify and seize the obligor’s financial assets in accordance with N.J.S. 2A:17-56.57.
  4. TAX OFFSET OR INTERCEPT: tax refunds may be used to pay child support arrears that exceed a certain amount. Payments due to the State for public assistance benefits paid as child support are first to be paid with the federal tax refund, while the remaining amount is given to the obligee. Generally, state tax refunds are first used to pay the obligee-parent. To qualify for federal tax offset, the amount of unpaid support must be at least $150 in public assistance cases and $500 in non-public assistance cases. For state tax offset the amount of unpaid support must be equal or greater than one month’s support obligation.
  5. APPOINTMENT OF RECEIVER; ASSET SEIZURE: the court may also appoint a custodial receiver to take possession of the obligor’s property and sell or use it to satisfy amounts due under a support order pursuant to N.J.S. 2A:34-23.

Other than income withholding, the rest of the techniques above are applied after failure to comply with the child support order. Moreover, if the obligor still fails to willfully comply with the support order, more severe enforcement may occur in the form of coercive sanctions, pursuant to R. 5:6-5 (enforcement of orders). This permits the court to proceed by carrying out any combination of the sanctions in R. 5:3-7 which include:

  1. Ordering temporary incarceration or issuing a warrant to be executed upon the obligor’s failure to comply in the future; and
  2. Suspending any state occupational or driver’s license; and
  3. Imposing economic sanctions; and
  4. Requiring the delinquent obligor to participate in an approved community service program; and
  5. Ordering any other equitable remedy deemed to be appropriate.

These coercive sanctions are not intended to be used as punishment, but as a way to facilitate enforcement. Typically, an ability to comply hearing is held before the court orders these sanctions to ensure that the obligor has the present ability to pay. Therefore, incarceration is used sparingly in situations when is it likely to lead to compliance with the child support order.

While New Jersey law has numerous ways to protect children and custodial parents in this matter, it can be a tedious and draining process to get payments made regularly if the obligor is unwilling to comply with any order or agreement. At Armour Law, we will help you modify your existing order with the court and ensure that all appropriate enforcement methods are employed.

NAME CHANGE IN NJ

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Deciding whether to keep a married name or re-assume a maiden name is a common dilemma among women going through and after divorce.  The New Jersey Final Judgment of Divorce gives both the husband and wife the chance to legally change his or her name to one used before marriage, or any other last name.  This also applies to same sex couples in which one partner assumed the name of the other in marriage or civil union.  Unlike divorce, a legal separation known as “divorce from bed and board” or “limited divorce” does not satisfy the requirement of the name change statute.

New Jersey Statute 2A:34-21 states that “the court, upon or after granting a divorce from the bonds of matrimony to either spouse or dissolution of a civil union to either partner in a civil union couple, may allow either spouse or partner in a civil union couple to resume any name used by the spouse or partner in a civil union couple before the marriage or civil union, or to assume any surname.”

Before granting a request for name change in NJ during divorce proceedings, the court usually requires that the party state under oath:

(1)   that the request is not intended for any New Jersey Name Changefraudulent purpose;

(2) if he/she was ever convicted of a crime and if so, the nature and sentence imposed; and

(3) whether any criminal charges are pending.

Although these requests are usually granted, an applicant who has a pending bankruptcy action in NJ will generally be denied.

In addition to the use of a previously used name, the statute also grants permission for the spouse to assume any surname, even if never previously used before the marriage or civil union.  If the name was never used, the spouse may be required to comply with the notice provisions of the general name change in NJ statute, 2A:34-21, which requires a detailed sworn affidavit.

The initial divorce pleadings should include the request for name change; however, it is still possible to resume a maiden/previous name after a finalized divorce.  A post-judgment motion will be used for this purpose.

If a spouse is also interested in changing a child’s name, the statute for name change in NJ permits minor children to legally change surnames; however, the process is much more complex than spousal name change.  A formal name change case must be filed in civil court that identifies the other parent, his or her residence, and the parents raising the child. The case will then be transferred to the family court. An experienced NJ family law attorney can guide the parent through this process.

New Jersey Divorce Name Change

The official seal on the judgment of divorce legally authorizes a spouse to change his or her name on all legal documents such as a driver’s license, social security card, and birth certificate.  Once these documents are changed, any relevant government agencies, financial institutions, and businesses should be notified.  Some other institutions to be notified include schools, children’s schools, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Records or Vital Statistics, passport office, post office, Social Security Administration, insurance agencies, and phone and utility companies.  It can be helpful to notify all family, friends, and neighbors of the new name to spread the word. Only the new name should be used by the individual in both work and social settings. Wills or living wills, power of attorney, and all contracts should also be amended to include the new legal name to avoid future confusion.

Whether requesting a name change post-divorce or as part of divorce pleadings, it is crucial to have the services of a competent NJ family law attorney.