Once a New Jersey trial court enters an order for child support, the payor parent is expected to comply with the order and make full payments on time. Unfortunately, in some situations, the payor parent may send partial or late payments. 

If this happens repeatedly, a parent can fall into what is called “child support arrears.” Arrears is another word for behind. So, child support arrears is when a person is behind on their child support payments. 

When you need to enforce an order in child support arrears or you somehow fell behind and need to defend yourself, you need an experienced attorney to guide you. 

Can There Be Child Support Arrears Without Court-Mandated Payments?

Sometimes, parents come to informal agreements for child support. Usually, this happens when the spouse who will be paying prefers not to go to court, so they agree to make payments. A party cannot use this informal agreement to seek child support arrears. 

If you and your child’s other parent come to an agreement relating to child support, you should take the time to find an experienced family law attorney to help you draft a formal judgment. An attorney can make sure that your agreement is in line with the amount of child support that would normally be calculated under New Jersey law. This is important because if you deviate too far from the normal amount, your agreement may later be invalidated. 

Once a judgment is entered, any late or partial payments would begin to count against a parent as child support arrears. 

Is Child Support Retroactive in New Jersey?

Although the judgment of child support is enforceable as of the date it is entered, in some cases, the parent will owe money beginning from an earlier date. New Jersey’s child support retroactivity statute respect’s the child’s right to financial support from both parents. 

However, that does not mean a parent can be held responsible for child support for any time before the other parent formally filed a request with the court for a child support award. There’s no need to worry about owing child support for many years without ever having been asked or ordered to pay. 

It is important to understand that a person cannot avoid an obligation for child support by avoiding court. If someone intentionally refuses to answer the door to receive service, the other parent can still seek relief and obtain a judgment from the court. 

How Do Parents Get Into Child Support Arrears?

Under New Jersey law, both parents have a duty to support their children. This means child support is owed to the child and parents should do everything they can to meet their duty. But sometimes, they fail to do so. Why?

Many people ordered to pay child support feel that it is an extreme financial burden. But New Jersey uses a nationally-recognized formula to calculate child support that considers the parents’ incomes, the number of children, and how parenting time is shared in the parenting plan

Sometimes good parents get into financial trouble. However, it can help to understand that child support may be reduced if a parent has a financial setback. For example, if a payor parent loses their job through no fault of their own, they can ask the court to reduce child support. Proactively working with an experienced family law attorney can help a parent avoid child support arrears.