Articles Tagged with child support

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During the New Year’s season we often reflect on the blessings we have received over the course of the last year and give thanks. Many of us visit family during this time and if we are fortunate enough our parents. This past week, the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the United States District Court in the case of Sun Life Assurance Co. v. Jackson that involved the distribution of a deceased father’s life insurance policy proceeds to his daughter even though he failed to change the beneficiary designation to his daughter from his brother. In this case the parties were married in 1993 and one child was born of the marriage in 1995. The mother and father were divorced in 2006 and the father agreed to maintain any employer-related life insurance policy for the benefit of his only daughter. The provision read as follows: “In order to secure the obligation of the parties to support their child during her minority, Father and Mother shall maintain, unencumbered, all employer provided life insurance, now in existence at a reasonable cost, or later acquired at a reasonable cost, naming their minor child as primary beneficiary during her minority; and the obligation to do so shall continue until she . . . reach(es) the age of eighteen (18) or 6a3146dbdf81597192112ac03d77c7e4-1-300x200graduates from high school, whichever occurs last . . . .”

Sadly, the father died in 2013 and litigation later ensued because he never changed the beneficiary designation before his death. The insurance company sought declaratory judgment that they properly paid the proceeds to the father’s brother who was still listed as the beneficiary.  The daughter crossclaimed that the proceeds were rightfully her property under the divorce decree. The court found in favor his daughter because “the divorce decree suffices as a qualified domestic relations order that ‘clearly specifies’ [daughter] as the beneficiary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(C). In its decision the court addressed two questions: “One: What is the test for determining whether a qualified domestic relations order permissibly changed the beneficiary of an ERISA-covered life insurance plan? Two: Does this divorce decree satisfy that test?”

The test the court applied in in answering question one was the “clearly specifies” test. Under § 1056(d)(3)(C) “a domestic order meets the requirements of this subparagraph only if such order clearly specifies— (i) the name and the last known mailing address (if any) of the participant and the name and mailing address of each alternate payee covered by the order, (ii) the amount or percentage of the participant’s benefits to be paid by the plan to each such alternate payee, or the manner in which such amount or percentage is to be determined, (iii) the number of payments or period to which such order applies, and (iv) each plan to which such order applies.” In digging down to determine what exactly is meant by the term “clearly specifies” the court noted that it does not require “Simon Says rigidity or demands magic words.” The court went on to state: “One may ‘clearly specify’ something by implication or inference so long as the meaning is definite. See Oxford English Dictionary 159 (2d ed. 1989) (To specify means ‘to mention, speak of, or name (something) definitely or explicitly’); Webster’s New International Dictionary 2415 (2d ed.1934) (‘to mention or name in a specific or explicit manner’).” An everyday example of this point that the court mentions is that one may clearly specify to a grocery cashier when asked “paper or plastic?” by stating either “paper” or “not plastic” to effectuate the same outcome. Here the court concluded that “a similar approach, informed by common sense and context, applies to the naming of the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. The statute does not require that a particular provision of the divorce decree clearly specify the relevant details.” The court then applied the “clearly specifies” test to the divorce decree and found it passes the test being that it incorporates both the separation agreement and shared parenting plan.  They identified the parties and listed their addresses. Article IX required the father to maintain life insurance “naming their minor child as primary beneficiary.” Page 1 stated that “[t]he parties have one (1) child born the issue of this marriage, namely: Sierra N. Jackson, born February 9, 1995.” The court concluded that the “agreement thus clearly specifies Sierra Jackson as the alternate payee.” Article IX specifies that father shall maintain “all employer provided life insurance . . . naming their minor child as primary beneficiary.” As to plan identity, Article IX identifies “all employer-provided life insurance.” Therefore, the daughter prevailed and the proceeds from the policy were paid to her with interest.

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In my last blog post I noted that effective September 1, 2017 a number of Court Rules directly impacting upon Family Part practice had been approved by our Supreme Court. I summarized and discussed a number of those Amendments. In this blog post , I will summarize and discuss two of the most significant and substantive new Rules which were adopted in this current cycle. Continue reading

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Despite the recent heat wave, Fall has arrived. Besides the presumably cooler weather, when the calendar hits September, we can always look forward to a number of things – school starts, rush hour traffic resumes, shorter days, etc. However, for us lawyers September brings with it the annual amendments that have been approved by our Supreme Court to the Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey. Unlike last year, a number of these recent Rule Amendments directly impact upon Family Part Practice. A number were in response to statutory changes that recently went into effect. In light of the number involved, I will summarize and discuss these Amendments over the course of several blog posts. Continue reading

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I was at a social event recently. A woman attending that event, after learning that I was a divorce attorney, came up to me. She told me that her ex-husband had just filed court papers seeking to modify or terminate her alimony payments. With indignation in her voice she explained that “He can’t do that because I have permanent alimony!” It was obvious that this person had taken the word “permanent” literally, and believed that her alimony rights were forever immutable. She seemed genuinely shocked when I explained, without getting into the details of her case, that even “permanent” alimony may be modified or terminated upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. Continue reading

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This week the media was abuzz with news of the demise of another celebrity marriage, this time with the separation of professional basketball player, Carmelo Anthony, from his wife Lala

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Weddings rings and large bills of money

Anthony. The Anthony’s have been married since 2010 and have a 10 year-old son. Their potential divorce raises questions about what would happen with their assets and who would get custody of their son in their divorce, were such a case to arise in New Jersey. Continue reading

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Several weeks ago my colleague, Elsie Gonzalez, Esq., wrote a blog post discussing the recent Appellate Division case of Ricci v. Ricci, A-1832-14T1 decided on February 9, 2017. That matter aroseCollege-Student-Discounts-300x300
as a result of a child bringing an action against her divorced parents seeking contribution from them for her college expenses as well as other relief. Although the circumstances and reasons for same were in dispute, the child had moved out of her mother’s home at age 19 and moved in with her paternal grandparents. The parents filed a Consent Order declaring the child emancipated. The child subsequently filed a motion seeking to intervene in the matrimonial matter, seeking to vacate the emancipation Order and for contribution towards her college educational expenses, initially for the community college she was attending. Continue reading

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Reiterating the opening to my colleague, Padraic F.X. Dugan, Esq.’s blog outlining the history of U.S. file0002135280483-214x300Supreme Court decisions regarding the fundamental right to parent one’s child, he wrote:  “United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote on behalf of the Court in the case of Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), that ‘the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children — is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.’ Justice O’Connor went on to cite other decisions like Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923), wherein the Court recognized ‘that the ‘liberty’ protected by the Due Process Clause includes the right of parents to ‘establish a home and bring up children’ and ‘to control the education of their own.’ Continue reading

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New Jersey Govenor Christie has signed into law N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.67 which significantly modifies the current law related to the duration and termination of child support obligations.

Specifically Section (a) of the new statute provides that unless a court order or judgment provides to the contrary, child support terminates by  file6771267335956-300x204

“operation of law” when the child either: (1) dies, (2) marries, (3) enters military service or (4) reaches 19 years of age. Emancipation traditionally occurred upon: death, marriage or military service. However prior to the modification of this statute, emancipation presumptively occurred at age 18.

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More than ever it is not that unusual for a father to learn that the child he has been ordered to provide child support for is not his biological child. Instinctively, it would be equitable to assume that ahttps://www.newjerseydivorcelawyer-blog.com/files/2017/01/2015-07-29-14.25.57-169x300.jpg man who is not the biological father of the child should not have to pay child support once paternity is negated. Concerns of paternity fraud are easier than ever to confirm because DNA testing kits are now available for purchase in most major drug stores. However, having a DNA test revealing the biological father of a child does not necessarily mean that a court ordered child support obligation is going to dissolved by the family court. Continue reading

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Allocation of higher education expenses for the children of divorced or non-married parents continues to be an area of litigation and developing law.  This week, the Appellate Division approved for publication the case of  Avelino-Catabran v. Catabran, in which the Appellate Division addressed the interpretation and enforcement of a Property Settlement Agreement between divorcedfile000195499258 parents that provided for allocation of college expenses not covered by a student’s financial aid package, where a parent had taken out PLUS loans.  The Court also addressed the support of college age unemancipated children where one child resided with one party outside of the U.S., and the other child resided at college in New York. Continue reading