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Court may tap wrongful imprisonment settlement for child support

Child support is a mandatory arrangement designed to give custodial parents enough income to provide a stable environment for their children. Without child support, many parents may struggle to pay for health care, housing and other essential everyday expenses. Any event that disrupts child support payments may cause New Jersey courts to issue a lien to collect the funds, especially if the custodial parent required public assistance in the intervening time.

Our Cape May readers can learn from a recent instance of child support enforcement involving a possible lien on settlement funds. One city reportedly approved a $3.5 million settlement for 88 recipients who were unjustly jailed by narcotics officials.

Reports say the offending officers were eventually found guilty of planting evidence, revealing 200 potentially unlawful arrests. One of the plaintiffs allegedly spent 418 days imprisoned, which could warrant at least $20,000 in damages according to state laws. The settlement funds were due on Feb. 15, but a portion of the funds may be deducted for delinquent child support.

According to reports, a child support official notified a district court in Camden that under New Jersey law, attorneys must pay child support before reimbursing clients. Among those jailed, several were presumably unable to earn income for child support and may receive a much smaller settlement payment as a result. Statements from a Camden official indicate that social services may receive the delinquent funds to balance any current assistance required by the plaintiffs' families.

Mandatory child support can only be altered by court order, so individuals facing a long-term hardship like imprisonment should learn about modification rights. Custodial parents can also research the resources they may be entitled to if a noncustodial parent isn't equipped to satisfy child support requirements. In both cases, parents can safeguard a child's best interests by making sure a reliable means of support is in place.

Source: Philly.com, "Child-support liens may delay payouts in $3.5M Camden settlement," Barbara Boyer, Feb. 15, 2013

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