Personal Payments or Payments Through Probation?

Litigants have a right to receive child support either directly from their former spouse or through the Department of Probation. There are pros and cons with each method, and as each case is different, what might work for one family might not work for another.

Unless otherwise agreed to, the default mechanism is payments through the Department of Probation. With payment through Probation, payments can be made directly through wage garnishment, so there is no doubt that the payer will not make the payments, or the payer can just set up and make the payments on their own. The greatest benefit of payments through Probation is the ability of Probation to enforce the payments, as well as recover any arrears. If a payer fails to make the required payments, Probation has several enforcement matters at their disposal, including the issuance of bench warrants, license suspension, notification to the credit bureau, and more. Another benefit of payments through Probation is a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) that Probation enters on its own. Another benefit is that if the parties are not getting along, then there is no need for direct communication about support between the parties.

With direct payments, there are benefits as well. First, payments can begin immediately; there is no delay in setting up accounts. Moreover, parties can arrange among themselves whether payments will be by check, direct transfer, or any other way. Additionally, when parties' children become emancipated, they do not need to let probation know, close accounts, stop wage garnishments, or anything else. A party can simply stop making payments to the recipients. One negative however about direct payments, is that there are few enforcement mechanisms, other than returning to Court and seeking enforcement.

Parties can decide on their own how payments are going to be made, but it is important that all factors are considered before deciding which method a recipient chooses.