Cross-Petitions for New Jersey Custody and Support Modifications
March 15, 2017
A recent New Jersey appellate case arose from a couple’s 2008 marriage that lasted only a brief time. Three months after the couple married, the husband sued for divorce, and later the wife gave birth to their twin sons. The couple resolved all of the issues arising out of their marriage through a property settlement agreement that became part of their divorce judgment. The husband filed several motions about child support and parenting time related to the twins and also appealed the rulings.
While the last appeal was pending, the father tried to modify the parenting time plan. The mother asked for enforcement of earlier orders. The judge denied the father’s request for modification and determined that the father had failed to comply with his child support obligation and parenting time plan. This resulted in his needing to forfeit substantial parts of his parenting time and his being required to provide proof of life insurance for the twins.
The father appealed, asking for a downward reduction in child support because he’d been involuntarily terminated from his job, among other things. The appellate court explained that the original order had to do with a six-year-old property settlement agreement created when the twins were infants. Now, they were over six years old, and the agreement had acknowledged that the father would get more parenting time as they grew. The original agreement had limited his time due to the twins being breast-fed. The father worked and lived in Massachusetts. His child support arrears were in the amount of $25,574.89.
The appellate court noted that when preparing the property agreement, the couple had contemplated modifications and adjustments to the agreement in the future, including an agreement that the parents would share legal custody of the twins. Although the mother was entitled to make all of the major decisions about medical and educational issues, this issue was to be revised when the children turned six.
The father claimed he couldn’t comply with the life insurance obligation because the mother refused to give him the twins’ social security numbers or birth certificates or even tell him the municipality in which they were born. The mother disputed this.
The appellate court noted that the record didn’t show how or why the child support obligation was what it was. The order simply enforced existing obligations and fixed the arrears that had accrued. The property settlement agreement called for a yearly review of the child support obligation, based on an actual or imputed income of $35,000, whichever was higher. The husband was to prove his income each February 15th, using tax returns, pay stubs, and other evidence.
The appellate court found that the father should be given a reasonable extension to provide his proof of income. The judge would need to fix the proper amount of child support once both parents had provided information about their financial circumstances.
The order being reviewed was vacated and sent back to the lower court for an evidentiary hearing related to the couple’s financial circumstances in order to resolve their child support and child custody dispute.
If you have children and are considering divorce or requesting modifications to a divorce decree in Bergen County, it is important to retain an experienced and aggressive child support attorney to seek an appropriate outcome. Contact the lawyers of Leopold Law at (201) 345-5907 or through our online form. We have attorneys available who can handle all aspects of a divorce.