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How is child support affected by income issues?

Learn about what happens for low-income or unemployed parents who owe child support. Learn more about how the system may be working against them.

For many households across New Jersey, it is a struggle to pay the bills every month and have enough money left over for food, medical care and other necessities. When a family in this situation goes through a divorce, it can make things even more difficult for the parents financially. Instead of supporting one household, one of those parents now has to support two through child support payments. This can create a nightmare for many people.

Child support determinations

The Spruce explains that when child support payments are originally determined, it is based upon current income and financial situations. These things can easily change, which is something the state recognizes. When there is a major change in finances for either parent, the case can go back to court for a support modification.

A modification is always a better option than not paying the owed support. Not paying is a direct violation of a court order and can carry serious penalties. Despite this, reports show less than half of all parents who are supposed to receive support actually receive the full amount due. This is likely due to a parent being unable to make payments due to income.

Getting help

When a parent falls behind in child support payments, a modification is typically the only answer. Once a parent become delinquent, the state and family court system steps in and starts penalizing the person. The National Conference of State Legislatures suggests making changes to help parents who may fall behind on support payments due to financial hardship.

Some of the suggestions include developing assistance programs to help parents become able to make payments, eliminating across the board punishments and looking at each case individually and forgiving past due support amounts to erase debt and give the parent a fresh start. Other policy changes may help, too. The state collects administrative fees on each payment made through the child support system. Reducing these fees or eliminating them for low income cases can give both parents a break, allowing the payee to have less debt and providing the recipient with more support money.

Fixing the problem of parents who cannot afford to pay child support is a huge effort. It requires making many changes and adjustments to how things are currently done. However, no parent should ever be punished simply because they do not earn enough money when they are trying their best. If you have issues with child support, consider contacting an attorney, such as Heymann & Fletcher.