By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Probate Estate Administration Attorney
In our previous post I discussed the child support judgement lien statute and its impact on non-inclusive transfers. This next piece will focus on the timing of when to run a child support judgement search as well as judgements entered in foreign jurisdictions.
Timing: When to Run the Search
With regard to timing, the agent is required to run a child support judgment search prior to making any distribution, whether the distribution is partial or final. While not expressed in the statute, New Jersey courts have held that an agent is protected from making a distribution if it is made within 30 days of receiving a certification that no child support judgments are outstanding. Strickland v. 212 Corp. of N.J., 380 N.J. Super. 248 (Law Div. 2005). If a new search is not performed for any distribution, partial or final, made beyond 30 days from the date of the previous search, the agent could be liable under the statute.
Judgments Entered in Foreign Jurisdictions
In Strickland, the court applied N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.23b to the following facts: The plaintiff, who resided outside New Jersey, was injured in New Jersey and a personal injury claim arose. The plaintiff’s attorney negotiated a settlement and, prior to distributing the settlement monies to her client, initiated a child support judgment search in New Jersey. The search came back “clear”. The problem was that, in speaking with her client, the client mentioned that he had a child support judgment entered against him in North Carolina. His attorney then filed a motion with the court seeking instructions. The court held the statute does not require an attorney or agent to perform a judgement search in jurisdictions outside of New Jersey, state that such a requirement would be both impractical and outside the scope of what was intended by the legislature. Strickland holds that so long as the New Jersey search shows “clear”, no child support judgment lien exists and the attorney or agent for the estate will not incur liability for making the distribution. Strickland, 380 N.J. Super. At 258-59.
To discuss your NJ Estate Probate Administration matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.