It is very stressful when a child support payment does not arrive. Household bills and child activity payments are coming due and panic may set in. Your monthly budget is thrown off kilter. Many clients find their way to my office after a single child support payment hasn’t arrived or after several payments have been missed. Sometimes it takes a few gentle reminders to get the support back on track, and unfortunately sometimes it takes a longer process. While every client brings a unique set of circumstances to the office, below are the general steps that I guide them through for their immediately and long-term financial security.

I always recommend that you first send off a friendly reminder in the manner in which you and the other parent communicate best. Sometimes this is a text, phone call, or email message. Remind them of the due date and amount that was to be sent. You should note the date and time of this communication and result. Make sure this is not combative or nasty, keep your communications professional.

If you do not hear a response or are told it isn’t coming, it is time to explore other options.
Do not lose your cool. Emotions can cause irrational behavior including nasty text and email messages which are always unproductive. Always remain professional.

You must immediately put two very important plans into place. First, come up with a way to pay your bills. You do not want to ruin your credit or have your kids miss activities. Hopefully this will be a short-term problem until you are back on track. You may need to dip into savings, ask family and/or friends for a loan, or explore the option of salary advance through your employer. While these can be awkward conversations, do not be embarrassed or hysterical. You can also call your creditors and explain the situation. Sometimes payment plans can be arranged.

Next is a legal strategy to protect your rights. The court order that stipulates child support payments including a specified amount and due dates is a legally binding document. Whether it was agreed to or imposed by the court, it must be followed. The law is on your side if you do not receive them. As the receiver of child-support, you have a legal right to have payments processed through the Probation Department. Find an aggressive and compassionate New Jersey lawyer who can help you with the legal maneuvering to have these payments resume.

As you start down this path your co-parent may try to negotiate with you outside of the legal process. Do not agree to a new payment amount or schedule without first consulting legal counsel. Any change of circumstances and possible modifications should be done through the court so they are legally binding.

Most importantly, in the interest of your children and your emotional health, take the high road. Do not bad mouth the other parent to your children. This will put your children in the middle of a very tense situation and expose them to adult issues they are not psychologically equipped to handle. And as always, I strongly recommend not airing your grievances in the world of social media. Tweeting or posting your problems on Facebook is not the proper outlet to express your frustration and worry.

There is great cause for concern when child support does not arrive as it creates a financial emergency. Taking the necessary steps outlined above will enable you to walk through the legal system as easily as possible so your life can get back on track.