In 1995, NJ Legislation (Chapter 334) attempted to increase the collection of unpaid child support by requiring plaintiffs or their attorneys in all civil lawsuit actions to do one of the following:
- File a certificate with the Probation Department identifying the plaintiff, requiring that staff in the Probation Department search that name in the ACSES computer system, confirming whether the plaintiff was a child support judgment debtor. If no response was received from the Probation Department within 30 days, the proceeds could be distributed.
- Conduct a child support judgment search through a private abstract company.
Major implementation problems immediately ensued. Due to 500,000+ annual suit filings, Chapter 334 promptly overwhelmed the NJ court infrastructure since no dollar threshold was specified, certificates were consistently filed with the wrong office of the court, lawsuit proceeds were unnecessarily delayed to the 95%+ of lawsuit plaintiffs who were not child support judgment debtors, resulting in generally poor compliance with the existing statute.
Work began immediately on amending Chapter 334, resulting in a P.L. 2000, c. 81, which both greatly expands the scope of the priority lien process and simplifies the compliance requirements.
Federal welfare reform legislation (PRWORA) requires that all States intercept and seize lump sum payments from judgments, settlements and worker’s compensation, by imposing priority liens on those payments to pay off unpaid child support judgments. P.L. 2000, c. 81 is New Jersey’s response to the Federal mandate.