As any parent knows, raising children can be a very expensive endeavor, which is why all states have laws governing child support for children when parents are divorced, separated or were never married.
In New Mexico, both parents have a duty to support their children and that support is calculated using the New Mexico Child Support Guidelines, which are based on the gross incomes of both parents. The first step in any child support action is gathering income information for both parents and calculating support based on the Guidelines. After the child support has been calculated, the court may enter an order that instructs one parent to pay the other a certain amount of child support every month. Then comes the hard part which is making sure that the support gets paid.
Enforcement of a child support order can be hard on both parents. Given the tough economic times facing many New Mexicans, the parent receiving child support may depend on the monthly check to make ends meet. Receiving a child support payment even a day or two late can cause serious problems, like a bounced rent check or car payment.
In turn, the parent paying support may also be living paycheck to paycheck and may have trouble paying support in addition to his or her monthly bills. However, failure to pay the monthly support obligation can cause a variety of problems for the non-paying parent including suspension of his or her driver‘s license, seizure of bank and financial accounts, a finding of contempt (and possible jail time and fines), issues with employment to name just a few.
One solution to the problem of getting child support paid on time is through the entry of a wage withholding order. A wage withholding order is similar to a garnishment, in that it is a court order instructing a parent‘s employer to withhold the monthly child support from a parent‘s paycheck and send it directly to the parent entitled to receive support. Or, in some cases, the employer sends the child support payment to the Child Support Enforcement Division (“CSED”) and then CSED sends it to the other parent.
Both parents can benefit substantially from entry of a wage withholding order. As a preliminary matter, such an order ensures that the support gets paid in a regular, timely fashion, which means that the parent receiving the support can count on getting the support at the same time every month and can plan to pay bills accordingly. It can also help the paying parent meet their obligation because they aren‘t tempted to pay other bills before paying their child support, after all you can‘t spend what you don‘t have. Another substantial benefit to the paying parent is that there is a clear record of what payments were made, so the receiving parent can‘t claim that they didn‘t receive a payment, which to the chagrin of many child support paying parents happens with great regularity.
There are limits wage withholding. Most orders provide that an employer cannot withhold more than 50% of the paying parent‘s income. So, if the paying parent isn‘t making enough money to cover the monthly obligation, then the receiving parent may be stuck trying to collect the additional support. Also, wage withholding orders typically provide that the total monthly support obligation is divided over pay periods, which can be good for the paying parent but may not be good for the receiving parent who wants the whole monthly obligation all at once.
Child support will be an issue in every divorce involving children or paternity action filed in New Mexico. Having an experienced family law attorney can help both the paying parent and the receiving parent navigate the complicated world of child support, including collection of support after a judgment is entered.