Post-Judgment Modification of Child Support And College Expenses
- September 8, 2014
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In the recent NJ Appellate Division case, Johnson v. Johnson, the Plaintiff, David Johnson, appealed from a Family Court’s post-judgment Court Order concerning issues regarding his child support and college expenses obligations. The Appellate Division remanded the case back to the lower court for a reconsideration and for additional findings of fact and law. In this case, the parties obtained a legal divorce in 1994 after five (5) years of marriage. The Plaintiff is 53 years old and the Defendant, Patricia Johnson, is 59 years old. The parties’ children, Warren and Nancy, born in 1992 and 1989 respectively, are college aged. The Plaintiff remarried after his divorce and had two (2) additional children with her, one born in 2001 and another in 2005. The Plaintiff lives in South Carolina, where he works at two (2) retailers. The Defendant is an accountant with county government and remains in New Jersey where she has primary residential custody of the parties’ children. In 2011, the Plaintiff sought to reduce his child support obligation because he began to make less money. At that time, he was paying $180 a week in child support. Also at that time, he requested information regarding his children’s college attendance. Both children were supposedly attending college. The Defendant submitted a cross motion for continued child support and for the Plaintiff to contribute to the children’s college expenses. The court reduced the Plaintiff’s child support obligation to $139 a week and used the NJ Child Support Guidelines to calculate the amount. The court noted that when the Plaintiff and Defendant divorced the Plaintiff was the breadwinner of the family and then the circumstances changed when the Defendant became employed and earned more than the Plaintiff. In addition, the Family Court directed that the Plaintiff pay 38% of the children’s college costs. Following an appeal at that time, the Appellate Court reversed the decision and remanded the case back for reconsideration requiring the court to apply the statutory child support factors found in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a). The Family Court lowered the child support to $100 per week and ordered the Plaintiff to pay 40% of the children’s college expenses. In its opinion on these issues, the Family Court’s decision recited the statutory factors found in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a) and also the factors to determine a claim for college contribution set forth in Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, 545 (1982). The Plaintiff appealed from this decision. In its holding the Appellate Court found that the trial court must make findings of fact and state its conclusions of law, according to Court Rule 1:7-4(a); N.J. Div. Youth & Family Servs v. M.C., 201 N.J. 328, 342-43 (2010). A motion judge must address the standards set forth in our statutes and cases to support a discretionary decision. Salch v. Salch, 240 N.J. Super. 441, 443 (App. Div. 1990). According to this standard, the Appellate Court once again remanded this case to the Family Court to make the appropriate findings, as the trial court simply recited the relevant statutory factors without explaining its conclusions of law. Child support cases are among the most emotional and difficult cases in all of family law. If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your current child support obligation or to seek any other relief pertaining to your divorce it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about child support, post-judgment modification, parenting time, 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.