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New Jersey offers child support amnesty week

When New Jersey families struggle with medical debt or credit card payments, hospitals and credit card companies often offer repayment plans. The understanding is that people do fall on hard financial times, and although they may not be able to pay all debts off at once, paying some or creating a plan is better than nothing.

This same theory is being applied for child support payments, but the opportunity is short-lived. New Jersey is hosting its Child Support Amnesty Week for the first time in ten years. The weeklong program, titled "Do the Right Thing for Your Kids," intends to help parents who have delinquent payments of child support and arrest warrants because of the non-payments. Parents in this situation are often afraid of the jail time, but the amnesty program is a safe haven.

The program allows parents to make payments or create a workable plan for future payments or even missed payments. There is good incentive for parents to seek help through the program. If parents do come to a settlement and draft a payment plan, authorities may discharge the related arrest warrant. Some parents have their driver's license suspended as a bargaining tool for child support enforcement. During this week, authorities may lift that suspension if the parent reaches an agreement. For those parents who still are unable to reach a settlement, they can leave the office and will not be arrested. The New Jersey Department of Human Services noted that 58 percent of the over 400,000 children in the state that receive child support will experience problems with delinquent payments.

Avoiding jail time is a good thing. If a parent is struggling to pay child support, it will only become harder if that parent is placed in jail and not earning any income, not to mention potentially placing his or her job in jeopardy. The amnesty program is a way to break this cycle. If parents are struggling to make payments, they can act even before an arrest warrant is issued on their behalf. A court may be willing to modify the child support amount depending on the circumstances.

Source: Lehigh Valley Live, "New Jersey offers deadbeat parents a chance to avoid jail during Child Support Amnesty Week," Matthew Bultman, April 28, 2014

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