By: Esme Brooker
Finances have been a topic of great concern for many during the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many people throughout the state (and the country and the world) recently laid-off, furloughed, or unable to find new employment, worrying about being able to pay the bills and make ends meet has become unfortunately far too common. Many organizations such as mortgage lenders, car dealerships, and student loan services have allowed people to press pause on making their payments with little question, which is a source of great relief. But what does the world’s current state mean for people who pay court ordered child support or alimony?
In short, you still have to be making these payments. New Jersey Courts have publicized methods to set up remote payments during COVID-19 so that payments can still be processed[i], and the U.S Bureau of Fiscal Services announced that the stimulus checks that many are receiving can be allocated towards child support debt[ii]. The loss of employment can of course be grounds for a modification or temporary reduction of child support or alimony, and it is likely that a great many people will be turning to the courts to seek these modifications during this period where employment is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain and to hold on to. But naturally this process takes time, particularly when the courts are also adapting to remote operations, so it is important to be aware of the consequences of failing to meet these obligations without communicating a change in circumstances to the court.
When someone violates a child support or alimony court order, under New Jersey Court Rule 5:3-7, they could be subject to a variety of sanctions. These could range from fixed arrears that will accrue interest over time resulting in a greater amount owed the longer you fail to pay them off, suspension of an occupational or driver’s license, community service, or even incarceration[iii].
COVID-19 has economically impacted many people, but unilaterally ceasing your support payments can still result in the above sanctions. A parent who is reliant on child support payments, particularly to supplement their resources during this period of shutdowns and economic hardship, may be facing great financial strain if those payments unexpectedly stop. Conversely, we understand that individuals responsible for support payments may be facing serious difficulties making these payments. If you have questions or concerns about your child support or alimony agreement, we can help. Contact us at 973-744-2980, or firstname.lastname@example.org.