Entries Tagged as 'child support'

Divorce and Child College Costs

New Jersey children suing their parents for college costs have been in the news frequently in recent months.  Many parents are unaware of the law in New Jersey which derives from a 1982 NJ Supreme Court case called Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982).  The case creates factors a court should look at when determining whether the divorcing parents of a child are responsible for paying for college.  Here are pertinent quotes from the decision regarding the reasoning behind divorcing parents funding college:

In general, emancipation is the act by which a parent relinquishes the right to custody and is relieved of the duty to support a child.

Generally parents are not under a duty to support children after the age of majority. Nonetheless, in appropriate circumstances, the privilege of parenthood carries with it the duty to assure a necessary education for children. Frequently, the issue of that duty arises in the context of a divorce or separation proceeding where a child, after attaining majority, seeks contribution from a non-custodial parent for the cost of a college education. In those cases, courts have treated “necessary education” as a flexible concept that can vary in different circumstances.

In the past, a college education was reserved for the elite, but the vital impulse of egalitarianism has inspired the creation of a wide variety of educational institutions that provide post-secondary education for practically everyone.

Some parents cannot pay, some can pay in part, and still others can pay the entire cost of higher education for their children. In general, financially capable parents should contribute to the higher education of children who are qualified students. In appropriate circumstances, parental responsibility includes the duty to assure children of a college and even of a postgraduate education such as law school.

The case most recently in the news involves Caitlyn Ricci suing her divorced parents to pay for her college expenses.  The court awarded her payment for community college and she now heads to Temple University.  Payments for Temple’s $16,000 costs were not decided by the court.  This case is heartbreaking not only in that a child is suing her parents but that the parents are also at odds with the grandparents who are supporting Caitlyn.  I hope for all involved, they are able to work out their differences.  Life is too short.  Perhaps therapy or family mediation would be helpful to the Riccis.

The other notable recent case was the Canning matter.  Rachel Canning sued her still married parents for college expenses after she moved out of the parent’s house.  The court denied her claim for immediate assistance.  She later reconciled with her parents, dropped her lawsuit and is attending college on scholarship.

These are issues we discuss during a divorce mediation, when appropriate.  If you want to consider using mediation to save time and money during your divorce, please contact me.

Mediating Difficult Divorce Situations

On May 9, 2014, I was honored to serve on a panel to discuss mediating difficult divorce mediation scenarios at the NJAPM Annual Divorce Seminar.  We talked though (and encouraged audience participation) situations including nesting, reimbursement requests for breast enhancement surgery just prior to the divorce, threats made by one party against the other in mediation and more.  Thanks to Joan Geiger for leading the panel and to my fellow panelists Pamela Zivari and Gabrielle Strich.

Check the Court’s Child Support Calculations

It was reported last week that there may be a error generated by the software family court uses to calculate child support payments.  As a default (i.e. if there is no other agreement in place), NJ uses a formula known as the child support guidelines.  The court uses software to to the calculations on each case where it is required.  It seems that one litigant found an error in the software’s calculations.  The court is investigating the source of the problem.

So, if the court performed the calculations for you, you may want to manually verify the math.

Here is another reason to mediate your divorce and periodic changes.  Mediating keeps the results on your terms.  For more information, contact NJ divorce mediator Marvin Schuldiner at 732-963-2299 or using this form.

Another Reason to Mediate Your Dispute or Divorce

This week, a committee of the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a report recommending that the court’s records be made accessible to the public through the internet. The report’s executive summary reads in part:

In drafting the proposed rule, the Committee accepted as a bedrock principle the need to preserve New Jersey’s strong tradition favoring public access. Accordingly, the rule begins with the presumption that all court and administrative records are available for inspection unless otherwise exempted. This approach is a significant departure from the current version of Rule 1:38, which narrowly defines court records as only those that are “required by statute or rule to be made, maintained, or kept on file” in the course of the court’s official business. The current version of Rule 1:38 does not specifically address the broad category of administrative records. The proposed rule is intended to replace the common law “balancing of interests” test with an absolute right of access to all non-exempt court and administrative records.

What does this mean for you? In practical terms, it means that almost anything that is filed with the court (motions, pleadings, hearing records, admissions at trial) will be made public via the internet with these details and exceptions:

  • Certain personal identification numbers (“personal identifiers”) should be treated as confidential by the Judiciary, and litigants should be required to omit them from any documents submitted to the court. Those confidential personal identifiers are Social Security, driver’s license, vehicle plate, insurance policy, financial account, and credit card numbers. The burden of keeping this information out of the court’s records falls on the filing party.
  • Documents and reports admitted into evidence or attached to a motion or pleading, including medical, psychiatric, and psychological reports, tax returns, and financial records and reports, are subject to public access.
  • Family Division records (i.e divorce cases) should be viewed differently from records in other court divisions because Family Division matters involve children whose confidentiality should be protected. Thus, reports, such as medical and psychological reports in dissolution and non-dissolution matters dealing with custody or visitation of children should not be disclosed to the public. Even evaluative reports of parents in these cases should be treated as confidential given the potential harm to the child. The Family Practice Committee should be asked to consider whether other documents in dissolution and non-dissolution matters that involve children should also be made confidential.
  • The committee recommended making the Family Part Case Information Statement filings and attachements confidential.
  • Civil judgments posted on the Internet should include full home address and date of birth for purposes of identification.
  • The definition of court record in the revised public access rule should state that surrogates’ judicial records are court records subject to public access. The surrogate handles administrative matters on such items for the court as probate and wills, guardianship, and adoptions.
  • The public access rule should allow parties and interested persons to request that documents improperly submitted to the court be removed from the court file.
  • The Judiciary should educate the public and the bar about the presumptively open nature of court records. Every person who comes into contact with the courts should be put on notice that information provided to the Judiciary may be disclosed upon request to others, or on the Internet.
  • Also specifically excluded:
    • Notes, memoranda, draft opinions, or other working papers maintained in any form by or for the use of a justice, judge, or Judiciary staff member in the course of his or her official duties.
    • Records of consultative, advisory, and deliberative discussions pertaining to the rendering of decisions or the management of cases.
    • Records pertaining to mediation sessions and complementary dispute resolution proceedings pursuant to Rule 1:40-4(d) and Rule 7:8-1, but not the fact that mediation has occurred.
    • Guardian ad litem records. (A guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent the interests of a person with respect to a single action in litigation.)
    • Family Division records pertaining to investigations and reports made for a court or pertaining to persons either on probation or ordered to pay child support.
    • Records relating to child victims of sexual abuse.
    • Child custody evaluations and reports.

Most of these records are currently available to the public, but to access them now, you have to go down to the courthouse and request them. If you want copies, there is a schedule of costs ranging from $0.75 per page to $0.25 per page depending on how much you’re copying. Access to these records will probably be free to the public on the web.

The report is quite detailed and covers a lot more than I have in this space. The court will be taking comments on the proposed rule through March 24, 2008.

Mediation is a confidential process protected both by court rule and state statue (the NJ Uniform Mediation Act). By mediating a divorce, family or commercial dispute or other conflicts you can keep your personal information out of public view. To find out more about mediation, please feel free to contact me.

And you think your child support payments are too high?

From the Atlanta Constitution Journal

Lawyer defends his monthly $14K child payments

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/14/08

Renowned trial lawyer Willie Gary had a very personal case before the Georgia Supreme Court Monday.

And for a publicity savvy lawyer, it was clear that this was one case he wanted to avoid scrutiny because it dealt with back child support and a legal blunder — his own.

“I’m trying not to try this case in the press,” he said, and then added with a rueful smile, ” because it’s mine.”

Gary, who is married with four adult children, fathered twins with Atlanta-resident Diana Gowins during what is described as a brief relationship when Gowins was living in the lawyer’s home state of Florida.

“She was in Florida training for the 2000 Olympics and she was looking for him to sponsor her,” said Robert Moss, Gowins’ lawyer.

The twins were born November of that year.

The two reached an out-of-court agreement that states he is to pay child support of $14,000 a month per child but Gary contends that when he signed the document he only meant to agree to $14,000 a month total.

That legal misstep has sparked nearly four years of trial court rulings, contempt charges, and appellate rulings.

Gowins contends $28,000 a month is pocket change for a guy who according to court papers pays $150,000 to maintain his personal Boeing 737 and estimated his personal fortune to be $60 million in 2003.

But Gary argues in court papers that Gowins “had misused, misappropriated and wasted the money he had given her.”

He said he paid $500,000 for support payments, college tuition funds, a new house, and child medical payments by 2005 but at that time only $25 remained in the bank for his children.

Gary contends that Gowins agreed the payment should only be $14,000 monthly, plus payments for specific items from the signing of their agreement in 2002 until Gowins filed a paternity suit to enforce the agreement’s actual language in 2004.

In 2005, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Wright granted Gowins $28,000 in monthly child support.

So far, Gary has lost most of the legal fights with either the trial judge or appellate judges siding with Gowins.

Right now, the high court has to decide whether Wright can force Gary to pay nearly $600,000 in back payments Gowins contends he owes her.

As most deadbeat dads know, a judge can jail them if they don’t pay child support. The Gary case is complicated by the fact that while Wright has previously ruled that Gary has to pay the $28,000 a month, she said she could not jail him for nonpayments before her 2005 order. The Georgia Court of Appeals, however, disagreed and ruled Wright had that power.

Gary appealed to the Supreme Court. Gowins appeared confident Monday that the high court would decide in her favor.

“He is doing what he wants to do, not what the courts have asked him to do,” she said of her short-time lover.

Gary won a brief victory in 2006 when Wright, apparently fed up with Gowins’ spending, reduced the child support payments to $5,000 a month, plus $2500 a month for private school. The judge had previously chastised Gowins about her spending and suggested she get a job. Gowins told the court she had the right to be a stay-at-home mom.

But the Court of Appeals reversed that ruling last November.

Gary’s lawyers had won the lower payment party by arguing Gowins had made $95,000 through investing the support money.

“The irony is that they had earlier argued that she had squandered that money and lost the investment,” Moss said. “She made some terrific investments and now they’re trying to use the good investment against her.”

Crackdown on Parents who fail to pay child support

The Bergen Record reports that authorities have arrested hundreds of people for failing to pay child support or who did not appear at court hearings.  A total of 1,020 people were arrested and $354,000 in back payments was recovered in the sweep that started last Tuesday.

Bill in NJ Legislature Dealing with Child Support

On November 19, Assemblymen Chris Connors (R-9) and Brian Rumpf (R-9) introduced bill A4557 in the New Jersey Assembly.  The bill, if passed into law, “prohibits permanent change of child custody during period of active military duty; provides that absence due to active military duty, by itself, is not sufficient to justify modification of a child custody or visitation order.”

I’ll track the bill and post any changes in its status.

College and PA vs. NJ law

The appellate division in NJ recently decided a case dealing with whether a parent must pay college costs for their children when the divorce (and child support orders) were issued in Pennsylvania.  In Marshak v. Weser (A-0586-05T10586-05T1), the couple with 2 children divorced in PA and subsequently moved to New Jersey.  New Jersey has a requirement that children have a right to have their college education paid for by their divorced parents (see Newburgh v. Arrigo).  Pennsylvania does not grant that same right.  The court held that since the original child support orders were issued in PA, under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which NJ has adopted, that PA retains jurisdictional control over the children and as such, they have no rights to have their college education paid for by their parents.

The UIFSA was implemented to prevent divorcing parents from shopping around among the states for the best deal.