Fathers in New Jersey who are not married to the mothers of their children might not realize that the law expects them to pay child support. There are exceptions, but a father typically has an obligation to provide financial assistance to the mother of his child. This is not linked to child custody and alimony, and although the courts prefer to see fathers sharing custody, it is not a legal obligation. Proof of paternity or being named as the father on the birth certificate could be enough to enforce child support payments.
The court can order child support payments, or the parents may reach a private arrangement, which, in some jurisdictions, will still need the court's approval. When the court awards child support, the need for support, and the ability to pay are typically considered along with several other factors. A father who stops paying child support can face serious repercussions, even if it was an informal arrangement.
If a father stops regular child support payments, he will ultimately also be responsible for the accrued unpaid amounts. However, if circumstances such as job loss or illness make it impossible to maintain the payments, the father can petition the court to modify the court order. In a case in which no court order is in place, the other parent could still take a claim to court, and the father's ability to pay will be examined. This might lead to a formal court order for future child support payments along with back payments from the date of the support petition.
The most sensible option for any unmarried New Jersey father who struggles to pay obligated child support is to consult with an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer can inform the father of the available options under state laws. Legal counsel can explain the circumstances under which child support obligations will cease, such as the child completing high school, or if the child is adopted.