In New Jersey, divorcing spouses can privately negotiate child support payment with help from lawyers and/or divorce mediators. If they cannot come to an agreement, the court will determine the amount by using state guidelines, in conjunction with numerous factors specific to each couple's marriage. In addition to the amount, the court will need to establish the payment method and frequency. Payment methods include checks, money orders, and direct deposit — all of which are deducted directly from the payer's wages. Alternate arrangements can be made, but it's very rare for a judge to approve child support deductions from any other source of income. The main rationale behind this rule is that income withholding is done on a consistent basis (when the parent gets paid). Hence, the child can expect to receive financial support on a regular schedule, whether it be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.
While most forms of child support are deducted from paychecks, any form of income is technically eligible for deductions. If you are self-employed or a freelancer who gets paid sporadically, the court will make special provisions for how and when you will need to make your payments. Even if you're not working, child support can be deducted from unemployment benefits, disability payments and Social Security benefits.
It may seem harsh to enforce child support on someone who's dependent on government benefits, but the New Jersey courts are extremely serious when it comes to a parent's financial obligations. The laws do allow for a modification or termination of support due to a "change in circumstances", but convincing the court to change a child support order for any reason is incredibly difficult. In fact, unless you had a contentious divorce, or you are barred from contact due to a restraining order, it may be easier to speak to your former spouse about your financial situation. Offering alternative arrangements with specific details, as opposed to being defensive or not paying, is often the most efficient way to deal with the problem.
If your spouse refuses to hear you out, or you cannot come to an agreement, you will need to plead your case in court. Before filing a motion for modification, speak with a family law attorney to verify whether or not you have a case. Circumstances such as incurring a major disability or having exceptionally high medical bills may be qualifying reasons to have child support payments lowered or terminated. On the other hand, having additional children after your marriage may not be a qualifying reason if it's possible for you to work another additional hours or get another job. Regardless of your reason, you should work with an attorney to gather the needed evidence and present the most compelling case at your hearing. For more information on New Jersey's child support statutes, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our lawyers will be happy to advise you of your rights and legal options during a free initial consultation.