New Jersey parents who are behind on their child support payments should be aware that the measures that can be taken to enforce the court order can include jail time. In addition to incarceration, states have the authority to garnish a certain percentage of a delinquent parent’s wages and to revoke or refuse to renew his or her driver’s license as well as some professional licenses.

While these measures have often been effective, the consequences on the poor who simply do not make enough money to make their required payments can be harsh. For a poor parent with an unsustainable child support debt, the loss of funds from their paycheck or bank account may only serve to make a bad situation worse. The addition of withholding licenses can make it next to impossible for these noncustodial parents to improve their life, but it is the prospect of jail time that makes some think of their situation as hopeless.

For many, going to jail means the loss of a job and does not absolve the parent of their child support payments. During that time, they are making no income while accumulating more debt that will be difficult to pay off when they are released. Although national figures are hard to obtain, one report has noted that in 2009, one out of every eight inmates in South Carolina had been incarcerated as a result of child support delinquency issues.

Child support payments can become overwhelming, and the penalties for non-payment may be extreme. While some noncustodial parents simply refuse to pay, many often fall behind due to unemployment or a similar adverse change in their financial situation. In such an event, it may be possible to petition the court for a modification of the original order.