Throughout the country and the state of New Jersey, there are millions of parents who are divorced, a situation that often requires one parent to pay a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly amount to the other for “child support.” This is usually the parent with whom the child does not mainly live paying the custodial parent to reimburse them for providing the lion’s share of costs, like food and housing, for the child. Sometimes, divorced parents can work out such an agreement among themselves, while other times, the court will get involved and a judge will issue a child support order.  Violating such an order by failing to pay child support on time can be a crime in and of itself in some cases, and can always lead to serious consequences, including potential jail time.

Below, our skilled Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain who has to pay child support in New Jersey, what can happen if you fail to pay child support when you have been ordered to do so, and how attorneys can help get those with overdue payments back into compliance with as few repercussions as possible.

How Does NJ Calculate Child Support Orders?

As noted above, some parents going through a divorce are able to negotiate an amicable, out-of-court agreement among themselves with regard to parenting time, child support, and other issues. A skilled mediator, family law, or criminal defense attorney in New Jersey may be able to assist you in coming to an out-of-court decision. If no such decision can be reached, and the matter goes before the court, a judge will decide who has to pay who what in child support, as well as other issues like where the child will spend the majority of their time. The non-custodial parent, or the parent with whom the child does not live as their permanent home, will typically be required to pay support to the custodial parent.

Child support figures are calculated in New Jersey according to a series of state-mandated guidelines that take into account the parents’ combined net income to try to figure out the amount the child would get in support each month had the parents remained together. Using a state-issued Child Support Worksheet, you can estimate the amount a judge will likely order you to pay in support. Aside from net incomes, this worksheet asks about how many children each parent is supporting, whether the child lives with the custodial parent full or part-time, and multiple other factors. It also takes into account the average amount families with both parents in the house spend on their kids. In certain situations, a judge can deviate from the guidelines to take into account case-specific issues like a child’s special educational or medical needs.

Can I Go to Jail if I Don’t Pay Child Support in New Jersey?

You can definitely end up in jail if you get behind on your child support payments, although the court is likely to first try other, less drastic methods to get you to comply. Once a judge has entered a child support order, you are required to make the payments as proscribed in the order. If you face a hardship or a change in circumstances, you will have to make an application to the court for your support payment to be reduced and provide documents showing proof of lost income or the birth of a new child, for example. You cannot simply stop paying or pay less without getting this approved by the court, or you could find yourself charged with contempt and sitting behind bars before you know it.

If you have fallen seriously behind, he probation case worker or the other parent and their Cape May criminal defense lawyer can make a request that action be taken against you to enforce the order. Typically, the court will give you a chance to repay what you owe or at least make a good-faith effort to do so. It is at this point that is it vital for you to contact an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney for child support payments like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. We can help you get back into compliance before more serious consequences occur, and, if your circumstances have changed, we can help you collect the proper documentation and file the forms with the court to have a modification made to the order.

If you fail to get back into compliance at this point, the court will have several options. Usually, they will begin by exploring alternative ways to get the money from you, such as garnishing your wages, suspending your driver’s license or any professional license you have been granted by the state, reporting the delinquency to credit bureaus, and garnishing a portion of your tax return, among other options. They may also prevent you from applying for new licenses or a passport.

In certain cases, where probation determines that an expedited enforcement hearing is needed, where you fail to appear at a mandatory support enforcement hearing, or where a prior order authorizes a bench warrant if you failed to pay, the judge may choose to issue a bench warrant for your arrest. If you find out a bench warrant has been issued against you, contact our skilled New Jersey bench warrant attorneys right away so we can work on getting you turned in without being arrested and try to negotiate a deal for the warrant to be quashed, such as by you agreeing to make good-faith payments. However, if you continue to demonstrate willful noncompliance and refusal to pay, the judge will have the option of convicting you of contempt of court, which is punishable by jail time of up to 18 months.

If You Are In Legal Trouble for Falling Behind on Child Support Payments, Call Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

If you fail to inform the court proactively that you are dealing with an economic hardship or change in circumstances, failing behind on child support could lead to a judge issuing a bench warrant for your arrest. If you refuse to pay even after this, you could be convicted of contempt of court and serve jail time. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our battle-tested NJ criminal defense attorneys for a child support hearing have years of experience helping our clients get back into compliance with their child support order, or make changes to the order if needed. We will work to keep you out of jail and prevent you from facing any other disruptive penalties. Call our firm today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.