As if it isn’t hard enough for custodial parents to collect child support arrears, the New Jersey Appellate Division just decided a case in which it was held that the United States government cannot be held responsible for damages when it fails to pay support arrears from payments due to an obligor.
In the recent case of Jacobson v. United States, Steven Tetz was ordered to pay child support to Mindi Jacobson, the mother of his child. Steven was receiving disability benefit from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the NJ office of child support ( the NJ state agency which is in charge of collecting child support) sent a garnishment order to the SSA. Steven fell behind on his child support payments, and in March of 2008 when he dies, he had arrears of more than $76,000. However, and here’s the kicker, in December of 2007 the SSA had given him a retroactive payment of almost $60,000. Needless to say, Steven did not give any of that to Mindi or his daughter.
When Mindi found out, she brought an action against the government, claiming that it owed her for the amount of arrears plus interest, attorney fees and costs for its failure to properly garnish the disability. She brought the matter under the laws, both state and federal that provide that a person or an entity that is responsible for the collection and payment of child support fails to withhold payment, it may be responsible for the amount it should have withheld.