Child Support Based On Imputed Income Raises Suspicions of Appellate Panel
- August 3, 2016
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A post-judgment order decreasing child support was entered in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Essex County, without a plenary hearing to dissatisfaction of both parties in Tuman v. Tuman. The order imputed income to the defendant, Michael Tuman, decreasing his child support payment to the plaintiff and requiring the defendant to pay plaintiff, Monica Tuman, a portion of what were found to be extraordinary child-related expenses. Monica Tuman appealed and Michael Tuman cross-appealed resulting in a remand of the matter for a plenary hearing on the disputed issues in the case. At the time of their divorce, the parties entered into a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) wherein both waived alimony and equitable distribution but the defendant, then reporting $40,000 in income from his small business, was required to pay $550 per week in child support, a substantial deviation from the Child Support Guidelines figure, to the plaintiff as well as 75% of the children’s unreimbursed medical expenses. Later, the plaintiff sought additional payment from Michael Tuman for Hebrew school, synagogue dues, day camp and other similar expenses. The matter required a plenary hearing to determine the scope of extracurricular activities contemplated in the child support payment established. The court held that the defendant was liable for payment of 1/3 of the expenses based on an income of $130,000 at that time. The court specifically avoided a “changed circumstances” analysis because neither party was actually seeking a modification in child support, only a contribution for additional expenses. Later, in the matter at hand, the plaintiff sought contribution from the defendant for their daughter’s activities, including driving lessons, car payments and college preparation costs, as well as an increase in child support due to a decrease in the defendant’s visitation and the defendant sought to reduce child support to a level within the Child Support Guidelines based on the failure of his business and a current income of $25,000 per year. hild Support Based On In its decision to remand the matter for a plenary hearing, the N.J. Appellate Division found that the judge’s questioning of the pro se plaintiff at length during an evidentiary hearing did not provide her adequate opportunity to prepare. The judge decreased child support to $404 per week but offered no logical reasoning as to why for the Appellate Division to opine on although the imputation of income is considered an “extremely fact-sensitive endeavor”. Caplan v. Caplan, 364 N.J. Super. 68, 88 (App. Div. 2003), aff’d, 182 N.J. 250 (2005). The appellate panel also found that it was inappropriate to determine certain extracurricular expenses were over and above the Child Support Guidelines without a plenary hearing. Decisions of the parties or the court in divorce matters have long-lasting implications for the parties and their children. If you anticipate that it may be beneficial to you to seek a post-judgment modification of a Court Order regarding a child support obligation 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, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.