A work-related injury can have a devastating effect on a family physically, financially, and emotionally. Sometimes a family cannot recover from these stressors and they find themselves in family court facing a variety of unexpected issues. This blog will address both child support and equitable distribution, some of the most frequently asked questions.
When you are out of work due to a work-related injury or illness, you are entitled to receive workers’ compensation temporary disability benefits. In New Jersey, the law provides that you receive 70% of your gross weekly wage subject to a statutory maximum benefit in 2015 of $855 per week. Benefits are paid directly by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to the injured worker.
This can cause a problem if your child support payments are paid directly out of your regular paycheck. The fact that you are not receiving your regular paycheck does not suspend your obligation. It is your responsibility to pay your weekly obligation out of your workers’ compensation temporary disability benefits. You may pay the support directly or ask the judge of Compensation for court order reducing your weekly workers’ compensation benefit and paid by the carrier to the probation office. However, because benefits are only a portion of your regular wages, many obligors fall behind on their payments when they have be out of work while recovering from an injury. Under these circumstances, the past due benefits continue to accrue and you will go into arrears. These arrears are still your responsibility to pay and will be deducted, at least in part, from any award you receive for permanent disability.
Every award for permanent disability must be approved during a hearing by a Judge of Compensation. Before the judge can approve of a settlement, they must check to see if there are any outstanding child support arrears. If there are arrears, the first $2,000.00 is payable to the injured worker, and then the arrears must be satisfied. Any remaining balance is then paid to the injured worker.
In New Jersey, there are three benefits an injured worker may receive: medical bills, temporary disability benefits, and permanent disability benefits. Both medical and temporary disability benefits are subject to equitable distribution. Under most circumstances, the medical bills are paid by the workers’ compensation carrier to the medical provider rather than paid to the injured worker as reimbursement for out of pocket expenses so that it never becomes and issue. Temporary disability benefits are a wage replacement benefit and are subject to equitable distribution. These benefits are paid directly by the workers’ compensation carrier to the injured worker, who is obligated to report them as income in a divorce proceeding. However, benefits paid to an injured worker to compensate them for permanent disability, or the ways in which their injury or illness has a permanent impact on their life, are not subject to equitable distribution.
If you have a workers’ compensation claim, it is strongly recommended that you seek experienced counsel immediately.