A recent case decided in New Jersey courts could have a significant impact on divorced parents who are ordered to pay support to their children. Child support can sometimes be a contentious issue, but decisions made by the court will always take the stance that the welfare of the child or children in question is paramount. Sadly, while most parents have deep concerns for a child's wellbeing, failure to consistently make child support payments remains a serious issue.
There was a time when debtor's prison was a fairly common term. If a person failed to pay his or her debts in New Jersey, he or she would likely have been sentenced to spend time in debtor's prison. Being jailed for failure to pay is a less common occurrence in today's world. But repeated failure to pay child support has landed a person in jail in another state.
A decision to divorce in New Jersey can lead to many difficult and complex decisions regarding a couple's newly single lives moving forward. One crucial issue concerns the care of children. Child custody and child support decisions are vitally important to the continued well-being of children involved. Child support is not meant to be a punitive measure. It is there to help ensure that children are adequately provided for.
New Jersey Courts are authorized to impute income for the purpose of determining child support when a parent is found to be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed without cause. See Caplan v. Caplan,182 N.J. 250, 268-70, 864 A.2d 1108 (2005) (stating parent's ability to earn income, or "his [or her] human capital," should be "theoretically activated for the purpose of evaluating his [or her] support obligation" and the amount of income that "should be imputed to him [or her]"). "`In treating the matter of support, our courts have always looked beyond the [parent's] claims of limited resources and economic opportunity. They have gone far to compel a parent to do what in equity and good conscience should be done for [the] children.'" Lynn v. Lynn, 165 N.J.Super. 328, 341, 398 A.2d 141 (App. Div.) (quoting Mowery v. Mowery, 38 N.J.Super. 92, 102, 118 A.2d 49 (App.Div. 1955), certif. denied, 20 N.J. 307, 119 A.2d 791 (1956)), certif. denied, 81 N.J. 52, 404 A.2d 1152 (1979). Thus, a "`court has every right to appraise realistically [a] defendant's potential earning power,'" ibid. (quoting Mowery, supra, 38 N.J.Super. at 102, 118 A.2d 49), and examine "potential earning capacity" rather than actual income, when imputing the ability to pay support. Halliwell v. Halliwell, 326 N.J.Super. 442, 448, 741 A.2d 638 (App. Div.1999).
N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.67(a)(1) sets the age of 19 for termination of child support unless, among other things, a different date is ordered by the court, "which shall not extend beyond the date the child reaches the age of 23. A court, however, can order continued financial support after a child's 23rd birthday in exceptional circumstances such as where a child has a physical or mental disability.
It is widely known that children can suffer the consequences of a divorce. All too often, these consequences are the result of a failure of one parent to pay child support. There can be legitimate reasons for an inability to pay, and if something occurs that would enable the parent to pay child support, the funds should be forthcoming.
Gender equality is a current buzzword in New Jersey that most people are becoming more and more familiar with. Along with gender equality is the term stay-at-home dad. More and more women are becoming the main breadwinners in the home as it becomes more acceptable for dads to stay home with the children. This can have unintended ramifications in the eventuality that the marriage ends in divorce. More women are paying child support and even alimony.