Child support payments can become an extremely contentious issue among former partners. While non-custodial parents sometimes simply fail to pay their child support obligations, in other situations non-custodial parents pay child support regularly, but a vindictive custodial parent claims not to have received payment.
For this and other reasons, it is important to keep accurate documentation and proof of every child support payment. Parents that chose not to document payments, or to pay in cash, face several serious consequences.
In general, New Mexico child support orders contain a mandatory wage withholding provision where child support payments are deducted directly from the non-custodial parent's paycheck. However, certain child support orders do not contain a wage withholding provision. This can happen if the non-custodial parent is unemployed or self-employed or both parents and the court come to an agreement on a different payment method.
Problems often arise in these situations when a non-custodial parent pays child support and the custodial parent claims that they did not receive the payments. The most difficult problems occur when the non-custodial parent has paid child support in cash and there is no documentation of the payment ever being made. Documentation of payment can be in the form of cancelled checks, money order receipts signed by both parents, cash receipts signed by both parents, bank statements, or any other form of record that shows support was paid by one parent and actually received by the other parent.
The New Mexico Human Services Department's Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) enforces child support orders. If a dispute over payment of child support arises, under CSED regulations, the non-custodial parent has the burden of proving that payments were made; CSED does not have to prove that the non-custodial parent did not pay child support. If a parent cannot show proof of payment of child support, under CSED regulations child support has not been paid, the parent will not be given credit for undocumented payments, and CSED has the authority to obtain payment through several different methods, such as intercepting tax refunds.
If a non-custodial parent cannot prove that they paid their child support, then the custodial parent can initiate a CSED action to obtain the support payments that are allegedly due. If there is no possibility for wage garnishment because the parent is unemployed or self-employed, CSED may place a lien on property owned by the non-custodial parent, suspend driver's and professional licenses, seize bank accounts, intercept federal and state tax refunds, and seek contempt fines and jail time.
Child support payments are also enforced under Federal Deadbeat Parent Punishment Act ("Deadbeat Dad Act"). Under the Deadbeat Dad Act, a parent that willfully fails to pay child support faces a prison sentence of up to two years and may be ordered to pay restitution.
In order to avoid having to prove child support payments should a custodial parent claim that payments were not received, a non-custodial parent can apply for CSED to collect and distribute payments. This will create a record of payments made by the non-custodial parent. Non-custodial parents who are self- employed may also be able to arrange for automatic funds transfers from their bank to CSED. Non-custodial parents often resist wage-withholding orders, but it can be the best way to ensure that they are given proper credit for all of their child support payments.
Child support issues can spiral out of control quickly, especially if one parent claims to have paid support and the other parent claims the contrary and if CSED is involved. For this reason, it is important to pay child support in a way that can be documented. If you are having problems with a former partner regarding child support payments, an experienced family law attorney will be able to identify your responsibilities under New Mexico law.
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