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Can Purposeful Underemployment Affect Child Support Obligations?

Can Purposeful Underemployment Affect Child Support Obligations?

Recently, the NJ Appellate Division rendered a decision in Oliver v. Oliver, a post-judgment matrimonial case regarding the issue of modifying a parent’s child support obligation. The parties in the case were married in 2002, separated in 2009, and divorced in 2010. During their marriage, the Defendant ex-wife, gave birth to a daughter who is currently 12 years old. Before their divorce was finalized the Defendant worked in the collections department for a private company. She claimed that she lost her job in 2009 because she was frequently late. The Plaintiff, her ex-husband, alleged that the Defendant purposely lost her job to place herself in a better position to get increased child support. According to an order issued at the time of the parties’ divorce, the Plaintiff was required to pay $115 per week to the Defendant in child support. At that time, the aforementioned sum was based upon the Plaintiff’s salary of $100,100 per year and the Defendant’s income of $68,333. In 2012, the Defendant filed a motion with the court requesting an increase in child support because she had lost her job for a duration of time and when she finally got a new job in collections she was only earning $30,000 annually. The Plaintiff answered the Defendant’s motion, citing that the court should still use $68,333 as the Defendant’s income because she had intentionally lost her job and failed to show that she even tried to get a job making a similar salary. The Family Court granted the Defendant’s request for an increase in child support and increased the Plaintiff’s weekly obligation from $115 to $181 based upon her reported annual salary of $30,000. The Plaintiff appealed this decision citing that the court failed to consider his claim that the Defendant intentionally did not seek or accept work for a long period of time and then accepted a position making substantially less than her potential. The Appellate Court reversed the Family Court’s decision and remanded the case back to the court to provide parties with a full explanation of its finding and legal conclusions. According to the Appellate Court, Rule 1:7-4(a) specifies that “the court shall . . . find the facts and state its conclusions of law thereon . . . on every motion decided by a written order that is appealable as of right.” Allstate Ins. Co. v. Fisher, 408 N.J. Super. 289, 300-01 (App. Div. 2009). In this case, the Appellate Court found that the Family Court did not make specific findings regarding the Plaintiff’s argument that the Defendant was intentionally underemployed. Disputes regarding child support can be of the most important in family law because child support money is critical for the welfare of the children of divorced parents. If you are involved in a child support dispute it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before proceeding. For more information about child support, alimony, divorce, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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