Child Support And College Expenses Calculated Based on Imputation of Income To Mother
- March 17, 2015
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In Haymaker v. Haymaker, the Plaintiff appealed from a post-judgment Court Order that required her to contribute to her daughter’s college expenses and set a child support obligation and amount of arrears. The Appellate Court reversed and remanded the decision of the Family Court. The Plaintiff and Defendant were married and two (2) children were born to them. The parties were divorced in 1996. The parties’ second child, C.H. was attending Syracuse University since August 2012. From the parties’ divorce until 2011, C.H. lived primarily with the Plaintiff. In 2011, the Defendant submitted an application to the court for a change in custody which was granted and an order issued allowing C.H. to live in the primary custody of the Defendant. The Motion was initiated based upon a “four-year financial plan” which was established between the Defendant and C.H. to free the Defendant from his child support obligation and to permit his contribution to C.H.’s college expenses. The change in custody negatively impacted C.H.’s relationship with the Plaintiff. In 2012, the Defendant filed another Motion which sought a Court Order to determine his proportionate share of his daughter’s college contribution for the support needs that were not covered by her attendance at college. Subsequent to this, the court issued an Order directing that the Plaintiff pay $125 per week in child support starting in July of 2012. The Plaintiff then filed a Motion for reconsideration which was denied. The Plaintiff appealed the decision and a subsequent decision affixing her child support that was heard during the pendency of the appeal. According to the Appellate Court, the Family Court has “substantial discretion” in deciding issues of contribution to college expenses. Jacoby v. Jacoby, 427 N.J. Super. 109, 116 (App. Div. 2012); Pascale v. Pascale, 140 N.J. 583, 594-95 (1995). An award will not be disturbed unless is it manifestly unreasonable or arbitrary. In Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982), the New Jersey Supreme Court provided a framework for evaluating parental contribution toward a child’s post-secondary education. A Family Court judge has an obligation under Newburgh and N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a) to consider all of the factors contained in that decision when making a contribution award. Further, it is well established that a child over the age of 18 who is enrolled in a full-time educational program requires continued support. Gac v. Gac, 186 N.J. 535, 542 (2006). In this case, the Appellate Court did not take issue with the Family Court judge’s analysis of the Newburgh factors in reaching his decision, rather, the court disagreed with the judge’s factual findings relative to his consideration of a student loan and other unreimbursed costs in the calculus of his determination. The court also found that the Family judge’s imputation of income to the Plaintiff was incorrect. Therefore, the case was reversed and remanded back to the Family Court for a re-calculation of these figures. If you believe that a post-judgment modification to your child support or college expense contribution obligation may be beneficial to you it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about post-judgment modification, child support, divorce, child custody, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice if an attorney.