Choosing How to Pay or Receive Support is Often as Critical as the Amount Itself!
Here at DeMichele & DeMichele, we spend most of our time working to shape the substance of a child support or alimony award, such as the actual amount and duration of payment.
The mode of payment is an afterthought for most of our clients but, in many cases, it’s just as important as the support award itself! After all, what good is a promise of money from your former spouse or child’s other parent if you lack a reliable way to receive it?
There are three general ways to facilitate support payments…
The traditional method is by direct pay. Traditionally, this most simplistic of arrangements involved the payor writing a check (or handing cash) to the payee on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis as dictated by the Court’s Order or, alternatively, the party’s consent agreement. It’s also the quickest to get started since it doesn’t require significant amounts of paperwork and processing time like the other options which we’ll discuss below. The problem with this process should be obvious: (1) the payor has a more difficult time proving that payments were made, and (2) the payee has no independent way to guarantee enforcement of the obligation. Hence, direct pay might work for divorced couples who’ve maintained relatively good relations but, as a general matter, we discourage most of our clients from adopting a pure direct pay system.
When direct pay is utilized, we advise clients to set up a debit account wherein the payor can directly deposit the funds; this step enables both parties to maintain a record of the payments and avoid future trouble.
The second option involves direct pay through a county probation office. Instead of sending a check to the payee directly, the payor will send a check to the probation department which, in turn, will make a record of the payment and disburse the funds to the payee. The benefit here is clear: both the payor and the payee have a clear way to prove payment (or non-payment) should a dispute arise. Both parties can track payments online and print out a history of payments for their personal records or, if need be, as an exhibit attached to a court motion. Still, although probation does offer a series of enforcement services, it’s not an easy or quick guarantee of payment when the payor is determined to dodge his or her obligation.
The third method (and the one which we recommend to most clients) is payment through wage execution. There’s nothing easier for most clients than to simply have the exact support amount withheld from their paycheck. There’s also no chance of “forgetting” to pay when it occurs automatically. That’s not to say there aren’t downsides. Some clients don’t want their employers to know about the garnishment and, rightly or wrongly, believe there is a stigma associated with wage garnishment. The only true drawback occurs when the payor is unemployed or is not a W-2 employee; it’s usually impossible to employ this method in situations where payors own their own businesses or receive 1099’s.
Which method is best for you is highly circumstantial.
Experienced assistance is a quick phone call or email away. If you have any questions regarding the difference between direct pay and wage garnishment, or have any other general questions regarding divorce, child support or spousal support, please contact us online today or call (856) 546-1350 for a confidential consultation with one of our skilled family court lawyers.