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Unpaid child support stalls settlement money

In New Jersey, as elsewhere in the country, those who do not make their divorce agreement payments will see their overdue amount deducted from their tax refunds, government rebates, subsidies and other sums they have coming to them. In the case of prisoners wrongfully jailed, child support payments in arrears are holding up their compensation money.

An hour from Somerset, in Camden, New Jersey, 88 wrongfully arrested prisoners are supposed to receive $3.5 million from the city as a settlement. Some of the wrongfully accused individuals spent over a year in jail. The individuals sued the city in federal court after it was found that convicted narcotics officers planted evidence, filed false reports and lied in court. Not all of the 200 arrested sued, but those who did were promised a huge settlement.

Unfortunately, back child support payments need to be paid first, and the process is holding up the money's distribution. Although how much child support is in arrearage is unclear, experts believe that the deduction may leave the wrongfully convicted individuals with very little to compensation for their wrongful incarceration. The city's attorney cannot say how much each individual is supposed to receive, explaining that the city gave no breakdowns.

New Jersey is very tough on parents who cannot pay their monthly payment obligations. In the case of these individuals, the state has the right of first claim to the settlement money, some of which is rightfully the child's. Parents are obligated under state law to pay the owed monthly payments no matter what. Failure to do so may result in much tougher penalties, such as the suspension of driver's and professional licenses and longer jail terms.

If fulfilling child support payment obligations is a burden, parents should consult a legal professional with proven knowledge of family law issues. New Jersey courts may consider a child support modification that is fair for both the child and the parent.

Source: Philly.com, "Wrongly jailed ex-prisoners in Camden must pay child support before they get settlement money," Barbara Boyer, Feb. 16, 2013

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