Four years ago, we handled the divorce of a New Jersey father. Last week, he called me with two questions that were perplexing him.
“My eight-year-old son has been living with me full-time since the pandemic because my ex-wife is an EMS paramedic with insane hours now. She is the custodial parent, but it’s safer for the boy to stay here with me; plus, her shifts keep changing. Yet my ex insists I continue to pay child support to her. Is there anything that can be done?”
This divorced New Jersey dad was also concerned because when the son moved over to his house, the mother had packed only some of the kid’s clothes. His child is wearing the same outfits repeatedly. He wondered if she could make an issue of this with the family court.
These are two related but distinct issues. Every father’s situation is different, but after learning about the circumstances of this New Jersey father who had accepted temporary custody during the pandemic, I gave him two answers.
The easy reply had to do with the youngster’s wardrobe.
I told him that, given the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, no court is likely to criticize or penalize a father who does not have enough different pants, shirts, shoes, socks, and sweaters for their child who is living temporarily with him to wear right now. He was not turning his boy into a version of Orphan Annie or Oliver Twist. This divorced New Jersey father is doing his best during an extremely difficult situation to protect the health, safety, and best interests of his son, which is the top priority of judges and what state law requires.
Answering his question about child support is a bit more complicated.
How New Jersey Fathers Can Reduce Child Support During Covid-19
A significant number of divorced men in New Jersey have had their income cut or eliminated during the pandemic’s lockdowns. As a result, their ability to pay spousal and child support has changed. The courts have been sympathetic to their requests to have their monthly payments reduced, providing they follow the proper procedure and have a justifiable reason.
This man’s situation is not unlike what many other people are coping with these days.
In the original divorce decree, the father agreed to pay a certain amount every month to the custodial mother to put towards the care and raising of their child. Even though his son is living with him full-time until things get better, the mother is still demanding that he continue paying child support to her every month.
The purpose of child support is to provide funds to help house, feed, clothe, educate, and take care of the children from a marriage. It was never intended to be a monthly bonus or extra pocket money for the mother to use as a supplement to her income.
His ex-wife’s demand is totally unreasonable.
Because New Jersey family courts continue to hold emergency hearings online, I told him we can file a request to temporarily suspend his child support payments while the son lives with him. We can also ask the courts to refund the payments he’s made while he’s had temporary custody.
Although it’s hard to predict how a judge will respond to the refund request, based on what the entire team of family law attorneys at the Micklin Law Group in New Jersey have experienced so far during Covid-19 it is highly possible the court will grant the request to halt child-support payments until the boy moves back home to the custodial mother.
Child support payments are very fact sensitive, so nobody should assume they will automatically have their request granted. I told this client that the mother may argue that she still must maintain the home even with the child in a temporary custody situation. If so, a judge may greatly reduce but not eliminate the child support payments until the boy moves back home with his mom.
Courts Will Help Divorced New Jersey Fathers with Support Relief
The child support attorneys at the Micklin Law Group in New Jersey continue to work remotely. As a result, we are in touch with each other and the court and can access client files through our digital infrastructure.
If you are a divorced New Jersey father and have any questions about your child support payments, we are available to meet with you in our Virtual Law Office. We can also discuss your situation by phone at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.