Child Support Case Appealed Because Judge Did Not Articulate Decision
- March 24, 2014
- No comments
Recently, a New Jersey case regarding the post judgment modification of a child support order was reversed because the Family Court Judge did not properly articulate his decision consistent with court rules. In Lombard v. Lombard, a Family Court judge addressed issues concerning the ongoing child support, child support arrears, and college contributions for the Plaintiff and Defendant’s two children. The Defendant, William Lombard originally filed a notice of motion to modify his child support obligation and to vacate his arrearage. The Plaintiff, Bridget Lombard, who represented herself in this case, submitted a cross motion seeking the enforcement of the child support order. In September 2012, the Family Court held a hearing to address the aforementioned issues. The hearing was neither a plenary hearing or a hearing that allowed for oral argument. The judge issued an order based upon his consideration of the facts and relevant law dating back to September 10, 2012, which was memorialized in his two page decision on this matter. On appeal, the Appellate Court vacated the Family Court judge’s decision. A forty page transcript of the Family Court proceeding revealed that the judge stated that he “would like to avoid a hearing for a couple of reasons. Number one, [he] [didn’t] want to do it. Number two, it [would] cost [the parties] time and money.” Next, the judge administered the oath to the Plaintiff and asked her questions about her Case Information Statement (CIS), pursuant to Rule 5:5-2. Upon hearing her response, the judge recalculated her monthly expenses. The judge then determined that the Defendant had been overpaying his child support payments “for some time,” and vacated $2,000 worth of arrears, but did not articulate how he arrived at this decision, which he was required to do pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.23a, which bars retroactive modification of child support in most cases. The Appellate Division vacated the Family Court’s decision holding that Rule 1:7-4(a) requires that a court “find the facts and state its conclusions of law . . . on every motion decided by a written order hat is appealable as of right.” This rule was not satisfied by the Family Court judge in this case because the Appellate Court could not figure out how the Family Court judge arrived at his decision. Further, the court held that where multiple submissions by the parties agreed on virtually none of the facts, a plenary hearing is required. See Segal v. Lynch, 211 N.J. 230, 264-65 (2012). 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 on child support, post judgment modification, 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.