Baby Help And Residing Away From Residence At Boarding College: The Logical Extension Of The Faculty Help Evaluation | Fox Rothschild LLP

The Appeal Chamber’s decision of July 6, 2021 follows nearly a decade of divorce disputes between the parties after the ruling. Defendant appealed against three (3) Family Part resolutions that (1) denied its motion to retrial an arbitration award; declined his request for re-examination; and denied his request to change his child support obligations. In the plaintiff’s cross-appeal, three (3) orders by the family section were similarly challenged, which refused several prayers for discharge contained in various applications. As the appeals department stated at the beginning: “With one exception, there was no basis to disrupt any of the challenged decisions”. This exception, although part of an unpublished decision of the Appeals Chamber and therefore not binding on lower courts, provides clarification regarding the change in child support for a child who does not live at home – especially in boarding school.

As the New Jersey Supreme Court in Faherty v. Faherty, 97 NJ 99, 222 (1984) said: “Child support” [is] always subject to change due to changed circumstances … “According to Lepis v. Lepis, 83 NJ 139 (1980), the relocating party bears the burden of proof for a change in circumstances that justifies a change. During the appeals department’s review, rejections of requests to change child support are examined to determine whether the court of first instance has misused its discretion in light of the facts. In any event, “an arbitral award will not be disrupted unless it is manifestly unreasonable, arbitrary, or clearly contradicting the reasons or other evidence, or is the result of whims or whims.” Foust v. Glaser, 340 NJ Super 312, 315-16 (App. Div. 2001). It is generally accepted in the state of New Jersey that having a child in college – away from home – constitutes a change in circumstances that warrants a child support review. Jacoby versus Jacoby, 427 NJ Super. 109, 118 (Appendix Div. 2012).

In Baeszler v. Baeszler married the parties in September 1994. They had two children together: a daughter, born in 1999, and a son, born in 2003. The parties divorced in August 2008 by way of a double divorce decree, which included their letter of intent. Almost immediately after the judgment, the parties litigated regarding defendants ‘maintenance obligations and training costs in relation to the parties’ daughter. Due to the defendant’s refusal to help pay the tuition fees and the associated costs for the daughter, the plaintiff was granted sole custody of both children in August 2015.

Three (3) years later, Plaintiff’s motion to enroll the parties’ son in a boarding school in Pennsylvania was granted. In response, the defendant requested that his child support obligations be changed due to a material change in circumstances, as her son would not live at home during the school year. The defendant’s motion was denied in part because the court of first instance found that disruption of child support would interfere with other aspects of the award.

The “only exception” of the Appeals Chamber was the clear agreement with the defendant that the court of first instance made a mistake in not allowing a review and change of his child maintenance obligations. Consistent with the defendant, the Appeals Division extended the established law (that a college-resident child was a change in circumstances that warranted a review and possible change in a child’s maintenance obligation) to include boarding school. This extension did not change the law. Rather, the Appeals Division found that the same analysis is required: “Courts faced with the issue of child support arrangements for non-home children must review all applicable facts and circumstances and weigh the factors in NJSA 2A: 34-23a . “Jacoby, supra, p. 113. The factors of this statute are as follows:

  • Needs of the child;
  • Standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;
  • All sources of income and assets of each parent;
  • Earning ability of each parent, including educational background, education, professional skills, work experience, child custody including childcare costs and the time and expense of each parent to acquire education or experience for decent employment;
  • Educational needs and ability of child, including higher education;
  • Age and health of the child and each parent;
  • Income, assets and ability to work of the child;
  • Parents’ responsibility for judicially ordered support for others;
  • Appropriate debts and liabilities of each child and parent; and
  • Any other factors that the court deems relevant.

The district court simply missed the mark. The reasoning for rejecting the defendant’s request to review and change child support was inadequate as it was based solely on the following quote: “[the] The award is so ingrained in other payments and expenses that disrupting this number would interfere with many other aspects of the award. ”This reasoned by the court of first instance without a thorough examination of all of the parties’ submissions on the matter. In fact, it did so without the benefit of a plenary hearing. The appeals division overturned this part of the decision of June 24, 2019 and referred the matter back to the court of first instance for further review with a clear instruction: “the court of first instance” Got to State his reasons on record to support his decision to grant or reject the defendant’s request for a change in child support. “

While boarding school is an extremely niche situation, the global appeal from the appeals department is pretty clear. The decision to expand the established law was preceded by the word “logical”. In what other alternative life situations for children could this well-established law be “logically” extended? The impact of this expansion on the boarding school is unknown in light of the recent decision. Undoubtedly, parties will rely on the Appeals Department’s “logical” extension of the law to change child support due to children who are away from home, wherever that may be. In such a mobile society, where children often live elsewhere for long periods of time – be it with their grandparents, college, boarding school, camp or the like – it is difficult to determine how far the well-established law can be extended.

It appears that, at least in this case, the Appeals Division is instructing the court of first instance not to consider these circumstances per se. Rather, a child living away from the home needs an examination of the entirety of the circumstances, regardless of whether it is a college, boarding school or elsewhere.

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