During divorce negotiations, the separating parents will come to an agreement about important issues such as child custody and support. Even if they don’t amicably agree, a New Jersey family court judge will issue an order requiring that the parents financially support the children. When one of the parents fails to pay court-ordered support, they may be referred to as “deadbeat parents.” However, the term deadbeat is best reserved for parents who have the ability to pay the child support but choose not to pay.
When it comes to parents who want to pay but don’t have the means to do so, there are many myths that exist. Here are three:
Myth #1: Failure to Pay Child Support is Another Way of Saying a Parent Doesn’t Really Care About the Children
A disgruntled ex may say that to the children, but it’s simply not true across the board. If one parent cannot make ends meet on their own, and therefore are unable to make payments, it’s not right but it, in no way, automatically means being behind on payments is a symptom of not loving the kids. (Likewise, even if the delinquent payor is choosing not to pay support despite the court order, it’s not necessarily a reflection of how they feel about their children.)
Myth #2: Failing Behind a Month or Two Immediately Means that Person Can Be Labeled a Deadbeat in the Eyes of the Law
The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (DPPA) can be used to prosecute people who are in arrears in paying child support it can be proven that the “deadbeat” willfully failed to pay court-ordered child support for at least one year or owes more than $5,000. This statute is often used to go after parents living in another state who think they can escape NJ law.
Myth #3: Mothers Are Never “Deadbeats”
Unfortunately, not true. The term “deadbeat” refers to either gender parent who fails to pay child support ordered by the court. The concept of “Deadbeat Dad” came about because for many years men were more often than not the ones who were paying child support.
The decision to get divorced is usually difficult for a variety of reasons. If you have kids, this is even more true. Of course, you want the very best for your children and have all intentions of providing for them to the best of your ability after the divorce. However, some times life gets in the way.
For example, an ongoing battle between you and your ex (the custodial parent) may make you suspicious about how the child support is being spent. Are the kids being taken care of with your support check or is your ex getting manicures or playing golf? On the other side of the coin, you may not be earning enough to keep a roof over your head and make the court-mandated child support payments.
Custodial parents who have to delay buying necessities for their children until the child support check arrives know all too well the pain of being “caught short.”
The adjective “deadbeat,” used these days for men and women, refers to a non-custodial parent who is not living up to child support responsibilities. While you might think of a parent who left the marriage and the children and moved on with another life, more often than not, someone given the “deadbeat” label is doing their best but can’t pay the bills.
That’s why the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998 recognizes that a true deadbeat is one who knowingly and purposefully falls behind on child support payments. The court recognizes that sometimes parents are unable to pay. However, just being unemployed is not enough to get you out of the obligation. Contact Ronald Graziano of Graziano & Flynn today for experienced legal guidance about child support issues including motions for modification.
There are many myths out there when it comes to so-called “deadbeats.” Separating fact from fiction may be helpful as you look to hold your ex accountable for non-payment of child support. Legally, remember, a deadbeat is someone who willfully decides to ignore a court order for child support. They spend their money on themselves or others, but fail to take care of their children. Falling on hard times is not the same as being a willful deadbeat.
Deadbeats are men.
Wrong again. There was a time that the term was “deadbeat dad.” Those days are long gone. In this economy, many women are the main breadwinners in the family. They may remain the higher earners after divorce. Unfortunately, there are many mothers who earn the deadbeat title.
It doesn’t take many months to earn the deadbeat label.
This is not true either. If you fall behind on your payments a couple of times, you likely won’t face charges. In fact, under the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, a person must have willfully failed to pay child support for 12 months or be more than $5,000 in arrears.
People who don’t pay child support as directed don’t care about their children.
In most cases this couldn’t be farther from the truth. However, some parents delay sending the check or fail to send the check for other reasons.
If you have fallen behind on child support payments, and you have had a significant and permanent change in income status, you may be able to ask the court to modify your child support order. Conversely, if your ex owes you child support and isn’t paying, a good family lawyer may be able to pursue your claim in family court.
Contact Ron Graziano at the Cherry Hill, NJ law firm of Graziano & Flynn. For more than 40 years, Mr. Graziano has been guiding clients through the divorce process and is extremely knowledgeable about child support and alimony laws.