WHAT!!! How could that happen? Those were my first thoughts and I’m sure they were yours too. So can that really happen? The answer is yes!
In that case, mom had custody of the child and dad had a child support obligation that he never paid. After mom retired from work, money was tight. Now mom was 74 years old at this time and her daughter was almost 50. Then mom remembered that dad still owed that child support.
Did you know that there’s no statute of limitations on child support Yep. In NJ, child support arrears stay FOREVER!
Now of course, the child support was not still accruing but until her daughter was emancipated, the child support total $30,000.00. However, in California (where this case happened), interest was added which increased it from $30,000.00 to $170,000.00. Yep, you read that right, one hundred and seventy thousand dollars!
So mom sued dad for that amount of money and dad agreed to pay $150,000.00 to settle the case.
Can you imagine that? You’re supposed to receive child support and never get it then you sued decades later and end up with a six-figure settlement?
Or the alternative, you’re supposed to pay child support and don’t pay and eventually, it’s out of sight, out of mind. Then you get injured in a car accident and you get a personal injury settlement. Guess who’s getting paid before you are? Well, other than your lawyer. Yep, the parent you owed that support to! The same is true if you have a worker’s compensation settlement.
Let me give you a personal example.
I have a client who accrued a large child support arrears, say about $50,000.00. He’s makes consistent payments now and his tax return every year is garnished to pay his child support but at this rate, he will never catch up. He gets injured at work and gets a workers compensation settlement for $40,000.00.
Guess who is getting most of that money? Yep, the mother he owes the child support too. After fees and his child support arrears, he’s walking away with less than $5,000.00 from his $40,000.00 settlement.
In NJ, as soon as child support becomes past due, it is automatically converted to a judgment. That allows it to be automatically paid before you receive any personal injury or workers compensation settlement or any lottery winnings.
The Courts do not have the authority to reduce or dismiss your arrears. Only the parent you owe the money to can do that because in NJ, it belongs to that parent for the benefit of the child.
So if you have significant child support arrears, you may want to:
pay extra to pay it down faster,
try to reach an agreement with the other parent to reduce or dismiss it; or
pray that you win a lawsuit 😊