What is the best way to pay my support obligations?
There are a number of different options to pay your child support and/or alimony obligations. Your agreement or court order establishing the support obligation should direct the manner in which the payments are to be made. What is the “best” way? Like many things, the definition of what is “best” is subjective depending upon your particular set of circumstances. Here are some of the common payment mechanisms, including some pros and cons of each.
First, you can enlist the services of the Probation Department. Support payments can then be garnished from your wages by the Probation Department. In these cases the Probation Department will contact your employer who will then make arrangements for your support payments to be taken from your pay similar to income taxes. The Probation Department will then provide the payments to the payee, either by way of a deposit into a bank account or a debit card type program. You can also make payments directly to the Probation Department and not by garnishment.
The Probation Department has a number of advantages. They keep good records in the event that there is a dispute as to payments. In some cases they will seek to apply cost of living adjustments (COLAs). In the event that the payor gets behind in support payments, the Probation Department can initiate an enforcement action in court. Certain support arrears will appear as liens if you are involved in a real estate transaction. There is also an ability to have the payor’s income tax refund seized for support arrears. However, the Probation Department does not offer flexibility (processing changes of any kind takes time and, in most cases, an order). Many people have complained over the years about customer service issues. There is a small fee for services.
Second, you can make payments directly to the payee. The Probation Department would not be involved in the transactions. The options include (a) providing payment by way of cash, check, money order; (b) depositing funds into payee’s account; and (c) making payments (such as the mortgage) on behalf of the payee.
Some people like direct payments because they tend to be faster than dealing with Probation. There is also better flexibility if the support payments change (Probation needs orders to make changes). However, by paying directly you do lose the advantages that the Probation Department offers (record keeping, enforcement, potential COLAs). It is recommended in direct pay cases that you keep your own records and proof of payments in the event of a dispute.
It is recommended that you consider all of your options before committing to the support payment mechanism. However, please note that, in the event of a dispute between the parties, the Court will likely select the payment mechanism requested by the payee as per Court Rule.
All of the attorneys at Domers & Bonamassa are well versed and have years of experience addressing family law issues, no matter how complicated. Contact us today at (856) 596-2888 for a private consultation. We appear in the following counties: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, Mercer, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May. Our practice areas include: divorce, custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, domestic violence, college expenses, equitable distribution, name changes, step parent adoptions, paternity issues, child abuse and neglect, prenuptial agreements, mediation and arbitration.
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