Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Articles Posted in Child Support

No. If you voluntarily become unemployed and go back to college, New Jersey law is clear that this voluntary decision is temporary in nature. Moreover, a judge of the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey shall not relieve a parent of their legal obligation to be responsible for supporting their children when making decisions and changes concerning their occupation. This is another example of why folks should consult with a lawyer (or law firm) who only handles family law related matters before making significant changes to their income or filing an application to reduce their child support.

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Child support is the right of every child, and during my many years of practicing family law I have seen first-hand that New Jersey Family Part courts will enforce a child support obligation in almost any situation. That said, a child support obligation may be modified upon a showing of a valid change of circumstance. One such change of circumstance might be unemployment, but only under certain circumstances. The unemployment must not be voluntary or temporary. A parent with a child support obligation cannot just choose to quit his or her job and expect to no longer have to pay child support. Sometimes people leave their jobs to enroll in college full-time. While a parent attaining a college degree may be beneficial for a child in the future, that does not mean that a parent can just leave his or her job to study, and expect that his or her child support obligation will be terminated. Leaving work to get a degree is a voluntary decision, and is only temporary. Doing so will not relieve a parent of his or her child support obligation.

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Yes, under certain circumstances, the parent paying child support may pay part of their support obligation directly to a child who is an adult yet unemancipated under New Jersey law. As child support lawyers, the attorneys at our law firm understand that special conditions are required in order for a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey to approve such an arrangement.

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First, not only must the child be at least 18 years of age but a judge must also find that the child has a past that demonstrates that they are very mature and responsible young adults. Second, the money paid towards particular expenditures for the child, that must be approved beforehand, absolutely must go towards that expense. The child must also provide proof that these monies went towards the expense in question. Third, has the parent who pays child support been historically consistent with their child support payments in the past. Finally, a New Jersey Family Court would analyze how the direct payments may impact the parent receiving the child support as far as their ability to sustain a home for the child as well.

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As a child support lawyer, I have come across this issue in many cases as car insurance is expensive here in New Jersey, especially for young drivers. In fact, up until recently, the law was not clear as to whether a divorced (or single) parent would be deemed responsible to contribute to their children’s car insurance. Therefore, myself and the other attorney in a divorce or child support case would negotiate the issue, but at the end of the day the parents had to voluntarily agree to make automobile insurance payments on behalf of their unemancipated children. However, in light of a brand new case, the lawyers at my law firm shall now be advising folks that they are legally responsible and this amount can be included in New Jersey Child Support Guidelines.

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In Fichter v. Fichter, the Honorable Judge Jones of the Superior Court of Ocean County, Family Part, reviewed whether car insurance for a minor child should be included in the child support payment or if there should be a separate obligation for it. In 2013, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines were modified by the State, to include new provisions having to do with the cost of car insurance. These new provisions, however, have only raised more questions about whether when a parent that is already paying child support, to a level sufficient to the guidelines, is also required to contribute to car insurance costs for an unemancipated newly licensed teenage child. There was no case law that answered this question when it presented itself in the Ocean County Family Part court, and the Honorable Judge Jones was left to tackle this issue of first impression. He held that Family Part courts, in their discretion, have the authority to increase or modify guideline-level child support on a fact specific basis, to cover for the extra cost of car insurance for a new teenage driver.

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A number of years ago I represented a great client in their divorce matter here in Middlesex County, New Brunswick, New Jersey. The amount of child support was the issue that the other attorney and I did not agree on. The other lawyer argued that his client’s income for calculation of child support should be limited to what his client was receiving in social security disability benefit payments. I argued that, while this income should certainly be part of the child support equation, the additional income that his client could be making without losing the social security benefits should be included. Ultimately, the other lawyer and I argued the issue in the judge’s chambers and I won! Recently, the New Jersey Appellate division affirmed that my position (and the judge who handled my case) was the correct one.

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On September 21, 2015, the New Jersey Appellate Division decided the case of Arede v. Arede. Paulo and Aurora married in September 2001, and separated shortly thereafter in September 2005. They had one child together. After the divorce complaint was filed in April 2006, the trial judge entered a pendente lite order. Pendente lite means “awaiting the litigation” or “pending the litigation”. In divorce, a pendente lite order is often used to provide for the support of the lower income spouse while the legal process moves ahead. Pendente lite support is paid while the divorce is still going on. This order required Paulo to pay $ 325 every week for child support, and $ 755 weekly for alimony. Paulo, however failed to make theses support payments during the course of the divorce proceedings. As a result, several enforcement and contempt orders were issued against him, as well as bench warrants for his arrest, which led to his ultimate incarceration.

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In breaking news, Chris Rock seeks joint physical custody of the two daughters that he has with his estranged wife. I suppose the fact that I am a child custody lawyer causes me to take note that in nearly every celebrity divorce involving the children, this is the “headline.” Now while I have only met Chris and Malaak Rock once (we sat next to each other once on a flight to Myrtle Beach), and I did take note that he appeared to be an attentive and loving father, I do not know these folks on a personal level. However, as a divorce lawyer, I understand that seeking joint physical custody may simply represent a loving father who wants as much time with his children as possible. In fact, upon filing for divorce Mr. Rock complained that he felt that his wife was purposefully keeping the kids away from him as a form of “punishment” for divorcing her. Hence, he legally seeks joint physical custody of their children.

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However, it did not escape me that, in the same article which came out right after the Rock’s announced their divorce, Mr. Rock also alleged that Malaak, “has the ability to work and contribute to her own support. Now while this just may be the divorce lawyer in me, it made me question if he was seeking joint physical custody simply to reduce the amount of child support he would ultimately have to pay to his ex-wife. Now, at this juncture you may be wondering what joint physical custody has to do with a child support figure. Following, please find why, under New Jersey law, joint physical custody versus one parent having primary custody can have a dramatic effect on the amount of child support one must pay. This not only for celebrities, but for middle class people as well. Let’s take a look.

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As a divorce and family law firm has handled countless child support matters over the, I know first hand that one of the most popular questions we are asked as New Jersey child support is, “What exactly is included in the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines?” This seems to be such a popular question for family law and divorce attorneys because, as many of you know, child support can be quite expensive and is a huge aspect of divorces involving children. While some expenses might seem obvious, such as food, clothing, and shelter, there are many more expenses included in the Guidelines that parents are responsible for. For example, the new case of Elrom v. Elrom explained that the cost of certain extracurricular activities is included in New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines.

In the case the parties married in February 2005 and separated in September 2010. Two children were born of the marriage, one in 2008 and the other in 2010. The wife was a licensed attorney in New York and New Jersey. When she first got married, she worked in Newark earning $102,000 per year. Subsequently, she began working at a New York firm and earned $175,000 per year. However, at the start of 2008, the wife was laid off. She agreed to stay home and raise the children, but entertained the idea of working part-time. In 2009, she started working part-time, approximately 15 hours per week. Yet, when the parties separated, the wife started to work 26 hours per week. She finally found another full time job as an associate, earning $80,640 per year, but lost her job right before the trial.

On the other hand, the husband was a software engineer, technical writer, web developer, and entrepreneur. His annual salary tended to fluctuate since he worked for various companies such as MTV and HBO; however, he always earned a good living. For instance, while working for HBO he earned $193,375 per year. In addition, the husband owned a limited liability corporation called Elrom, which performed consulting services, sponsored an annual technology trade show, and participated in many start-up companies.

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Many divorced parents revisit their child support arrangements when a child enters college. If the parents have been divorced for many years, college expenses may be significantly different than originally estimated. Additionally, parents may have had a change in their personal financial circumstances.

Often clients ask me a variation of the question “now that my child is in college, do I still have to pay child support?” Recently, a New Jersey Appellate Division handled that very question.

The scenario: The Jacoby’s were divorced and had two children. When the first entered college, Mr. Jacoby filed to reduce his child support payment to his ex-wife on the grounds that the child was no longer living full-time in her house. The court granted the change using formulas that showed that in fact the household expenses were lower since the child was not home full-time.

When the second child went off to college, Mr. Jacoby once again filed to have support modified on the same grounds, however this time it was denied and he appealed. You can click here to see the full ruling from the appellate court here.

The court did agree that the launch of a child off to college is certainly grounds to revisit support, the court stated that it was not an automatic occurrence, and many factors, including those related to the children and both parents should be considered. Citing several cases, child support modifications must be done in the best interest of the children. The occurrence of going to college may not in fact have such a drastic effect on the amount of child support paid.

How this can apply to you:
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In negotiating child custody and support arrangements, there are many unfortunate and often heartbreaking discoveries made. Most commonly affairs and financial deceit are uncovered. But few things are as painful as a client learning that they are in fact not the biological parent of the child they raised as their own. Legally, these fathers may be able recover money spent raising that child if we come to learn of the mistaken paternity. With reasonable doubt a father can petition the court to mandate a paternity test. But what if the mother and now adult child object to the test? The New Jersey State Supreme just ruled on such a case involving a family in Morristown, NJ.

After a marriage lasting decades, the husband, Richard, discovered inappropriate text messages on his wife Diane’s phone from her boyfriend. The marriage unraveled and the husband became suspicious that their youngest child (Mark) may not be his. An at-home paternity test confirmed his suspicions and the wife then admitted that at the time of Mark’s conception, she had an affair (with her brother-in-law) calling the child’s paternity into question.

As you can imagine, the husband was devastated and felt he was entitled to recover the money he had put into the child since his birth. The only legal recourse is to sue the wife, a process that would start with a legitimate paternity test. Mom and son refused so the issue headed to court.
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It is very stressful when a child support payment does not arrive. Household bills and child activity payments are coming due and panic may set in. Your monthly budget is thrown off kilter. Many clients find their way to my office after a single child support payment hasn’t arrived or after several payments have been missed. Sometimes it takes a few gentle reminders to get the support back on track, and unfortunately sometimes it takes a longer process. While every client brings a unique set of circumstances to the office, below are the general steps that I guide them through for their immediately and long-term financial security.

I always recommend that you first send off a friendly reminder in the manner in which you and the other parent communicate best. Sometimes this is a text, phone call, or email message. Remind them of the due date and amount that was to be sent. You should note the date and time of this communication and result. Make sure this is not combative or nasty, keep your communications professional.

If you do not hear a response or are told it isn’t coming, it is time to explore other options.
Do not lose your cool. Emotions can cause irrational behavior including nasty text and email messages which are always unproductive. Always remain professional.

You must immediately put two very important plans into place. First, come up with a way to pay your bills. You do not want to ruin your credit or have your kids miss activities. Hopefully this will be a short-term problem until you are back on track. You may need to dip into savings, ask family and/or friends for a loan, or explore the option of salary advance through your employer. While these can be awkward conversations, do not be embarrassed or hysterical. You can also call your creditors and explain the situation. Sometimes payment plans can be arranged.
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1155826_soccer_player.jpgOver my nearly 20 years as a New Jersey divorce and family lawyer, I have maintained that child support is not optional – both parents are responsible for making sure their children are financially cared for, and the child support laws here in the garden state agree.

Child Support goes hand-in-hand with custody arrangements and is based on a series of very specific formulas called New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines are based on three major factors: the expenses of raising the child, the income levels of each parent, and the number of nights during the week the child will spend with each parent.

Some individuals feel that they can skirt the system by falsifying documents related to their income and costs of certain activities. Here are some great things to look out for in your ex-spouse when child support is being calculated and then in your post-divorce life:
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