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The Collection and Enforcement of Child Support and Spousal Support in New Jersey

When facing divorce or separation from your spouse or children, knowing that you may receive or be obligated to pay child support and/or spousal support is not enough. Several questions often arise, such as: How much support will I have to pay? To whom do I make the support payments? Who keeps track of the payments?

The experienced matrimonial attorneys at Ulrichsen Rosen & Freed LLC can work through these questions with you. One of our attorneys can review your financial circumstances and provide guidance as to how to address immediate support-related issues correctly before you have been in court, or during the court process.

An important detail to understand about support, is that once the court becomes involved, child support and spousal support obligations may be enforced and collected by the county probation department where the paying spouse lives, unless the parties agree in writing or the Court finds good cause to order an alternative payment arrangement. In situations where the parties agree that support should be paid directly between the parties (e.g., by check or direct deposit into a recipient’s checking account) without the involvement of the probation department, the parties must explicitly state that method of payment in their agreement or court order. If a case has been opened by the probation department and the parties later agree that they would prefer not to have probation involved with collecting support, the recipient of support, called the “obligee” of the support obligation, must make a signed, notarized request for the case to be closed. Upon receipt of such a request, either a representative of the county probation department will draft an administrative court order to close the case, or a motion will need to be filed with the court to close the case.

Because parties will often have to interface with the probation department, it is important to understand enforcement processes and how the probation department operates. When a support case is initially opened in New Jersey with the probation department, support payments can be sent via check or money order to the New Jersey Support Payment Center (“NJFSPC”) in Trenton. Additionally, payments can be made in cash at most courthouses in New Jersey.

In most cases, eventually the probation department will issue a notice directly to the paying party’s employer to garnish the support payment from the paying party’s wages. If you’ve been paying by check, money order, or cash when you find that support has been garnished from your paycheck for the first time, you should contact the probation department to determine if your account is completely paid up-to-date, or if any money is owed. Once a payment is garnished, the obligation should continue to be deducted from your income, similar to the way income taxes and other withholdings are deducted. If the paying party changes jobs, he or she will need to update the probation department with the new employer’s information, so the new employer can begin a garnishment.

In future blog entries, I will explain in more detail the various ways in which the probation department manages cases, the enforcement tools at their disposal, and provide some practical advice to obligors (the people paying the money) and obligees (the people receiving the money) to assist them interface effectively with the probation department.