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Database ‘Phase Out’ Likely to Cause delays in Settling NJ Workers’ Comp cases

As of March 3, 2009 the State of New Jersey ‘phased out’ half of the centralized computer system (the part maintained by the Department of Human Services) which tracks when a child-support payer is “behind” in their support obligations. Typically, when a case reaches settlement (either by section 20 or Order Approving Settlement) the court clerk will check the computer database to make sure that the claimant doesn’t owe past-due child support. If child support was owed, then the Order reflects that a certain portion of the settlement must be remitted to the appropriate county probation department to satisfy the support requirement.

Why are we reporting on this? Because it affects many claims: New Jersey workers’ compensation carriers made $3.5 Million in child support payments in 2008.

The State is phasing out half of the centralized computer system that the Workers’ Comp clerks have access to. Now, when the docket shows a child support arrearage, and the amount is in dispute, the petitioner’s attorney will have to resolve the dispute with the applicable county probation department.

A common dispute occurs when a claimant is due workers’ compensation benefits and a child support lien for past-due support has been placed on the court docket. The claimant (nearly always) asserts that “he paid that money, that is an old lien.” In the past, the Workers’ Comp clerk could directly access the child support ledger for that individual claimant – and the dispute could be resolved on the spot (and 99.9% of the time the claimant was behind in his payments and the docket was correct).

Now, the process will likely take longer, as claimant’s attorney will have to directly follow up with individual probation departments. The Administrative Office of the Courts will continue to maintain their child-support tracking system, but that system is notoriously out-of-date; in fact, the Office of the Courts’ “half” of the database could never be relied upon (by itself) for an accurate statement of current arrearages.

Expect claims with child-support liens to requires additional time to close, probably in the realm of several weeks.

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