Court Creates method For Determining Child Support In Multiple Family Situations
- January 19, 2015
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In Harte v. Hand, a 2014 NJ Appellate Division case, the court sets forth the methodology for equitably setting child support in cases of multiple family obligations. Specific to the case, the court recalculated two child support obligations for the Defendant; one for Plaintiff Susan Harte and the other for Plaintiff T.B. The Defendant, David Richard Hand, had three (3) children which he fathered with three (3) different women. One of these children lives with the Defendant and his current paramour. Another child lives with Ms. Harte and the third with T.B. whom are both the custodial parents of these children. Previously, the Appellate Division held that the Family Court was mistaken in setting the Defendant’s child support amounts because it did not account for the financial impact that one obligation had on the other. Mistakenly, the Family Court calculated the Defendant’s obligation as if he had no prior child support obligations and because of this over-exaggerated the amount of income attributable to him. On review, the Appellate Court found the calculation to be unfair and held that “[e]quality in treatment for the mothers should not be obtained by requiring the father to pay an inappropriately high level of support for both children.” Harte v. Hand, 433 N.J. Super. 457, 462 (App. Div. 2013). Therefore, one goal to be achieved in calculating child support for multiple families is to ensure parity among the children of the obligor. Id. According to the Appellate Division, the NJ Child Support Guidelines shall be applied when a court calculates or modifies child support and may only be modified or disregarded for good cause shown. Lozner v. Lozner, 388 N.J. Super. 471, 480 (App. Div. 2006). Although, the guidelines are presumed to be correct unless one party can prove their use is inappropriate. In situations where child support was calculated using the guidelines and would cause injustice, the court may disregard the calculation if a party can show good cause to do so. Ribner v. Ribner, 290 N.J. Super. 66, 73 (App. Div. 1996); Chobot v. Chobot, 224 N.J. Super. 648,649 (App. Div. 1988). As in this case, where a party has multiple family obligations and pays child support for children of different households, the court has discretionary power to adjust or disregard the guidelines in calculating an obligation. In its holding, the Appellate Court specified that to equitably calculate child support awards for multiple family obligations, the courts will use a formula set forth in its prior decision with certain modifications. Ultimately, the court will calculate two separate child support obligations for each custodial parent and then average the two figures together. One award is calculated as if the obligor has no prior child support order, and the other is calculated taking into account the prior support order(s). Next, the court will average each custodial parents’ two guideline worksheets together and the average will become the child support award for that custodial parent. Child support is the right of the child and the obligation of the payor and always due but the amount is subject to multiple factors. If you are seeking child support from another parent or have notice that your child’s other parent is seeking child support from you, it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about 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 is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.