When there is a hostile relationship or a non-existent relationship between a child and a non-custodial parent, there is a possibility that the non-custodial parent may be relieved of the obligation to contribute towards college expenses.  In my prior blog, I discussed the impact of college financial support when the child won’t speak with the non-custodial parent.

After the blog was posted, many asked me whether or not a deteriorated relationship between a child and a non-custodial parent could result in the termination of the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation. The answer is almost always NO the child support obligation will not be terminated even if the child refuses to have a relationship with the non-custodial parent.  (Note, however, where a custodial parent encourages such a circumstance or is the cause of the circumstance, continued custody of the custodial parent may be significantly impacted.)

Strictly for child support purposes, if the child has not moved “beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility” of the custodial parent and has not obtained “an independent status of his or her own”, the child would not be emancipated and the non-custodial parent would continue to have a duty of child support.  Under this inquiry, unless the child is a celebrity and making their own appreciable amount of income, clearly any child under the age of eighteen and/or still a high school student will have not achieved an independent status.  Therefore, if the child and non-custodial parent never see each other, never speak or the relationship is hostile, the non-custodial parent still has a duty to support that child.


Continue Reading Child Support Obligation When the Child Won’t Speak to the Parent

For a non-custodial parent, the rejection of a child is one of the most stressful and hurtful situations regardless of whether the deterioration in the relationship is the child’s fault, the custodial parent’s fault, the non-custodial parent’s fault or a combination of all three. Unfortunately, the bitterness often escalates when the child and custodial parent seek financial contribution for the child’s college education. Many non-custodial parents in these types of situation question whether or not they are legally obligated to contribute towards the college expenses of a child who refuses a relationship with them.  

In Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982), the New Jersey Supreme Court established twelve factors that a court shall examine in evaluating a claim for a contribution by a parent towards the costs of their child’s higher education. While all twelve factors must be weighed by the Court, a common issue raised by the non-custodial parent relates to factor eleven:

11.       The child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals, as well as responsiveness to the parental advice and guidance.

 

Many litigants assume that if there is a deterioration in the relationship between a non-custodial parent and a college-bound child, the non-custodial parent’s obligation to contribute towards college is terminated. However, in Gac v. Gac, 351 N.J. Super. 54 (App. Div. 2002), the Appellate Division held that while there are circumstances in which a child’s rejection of their parent would warrant a dismissal of any obligation on their part to contribute to the child’s college costs, a child’s rejection of a parent’s attempt to establish a relationship does not immediately eradicate that parent’s obligation to contribute to college costs. For purposes of determining college contribution, the analysis is not simply whether there has been a breakdown in communication but whether a non-custodial parent can be required to contribute to his or her children’s college costs when communication between parent and child has been severed and, as a result, the parent has not been part of the college selection process or the child’s college  progress.


Continue Reading College Financial Support When the Child Won't Speak to the Parent

While in the past we have blogged on the topic of what acts constitute domestic violence, a blog about how trial judges approach and analyze whether or not a retaining order is necessary seems appropriate. Recently, in the unpublished decision of L.N. v. B.R.S., the Appellate Division noted that after the Court finds that an act of domestic violence occurred, the Court must take a “stop, look, and listen approach” in determining whether a domestic violence final restraining order should be entered. In this dual-element test, entry of a domestic violence restraining order is not automatic if the plaintiff proves an act of domestic violence occurred. Silver v. Silver, 387 N.J. Super. 112 (App.Div. 2006); Corrente v. Corrente, 281 N.J. Super. 248 (App.Div. 1995). The plaintiff must also prove that issuance of a restraining order is required to protect the plaintiff from future acts or threats of violence.

Assuming that a plaintiff has proven that an act of domestic violence has occurred, what analysis does the Judge take in determining whether or not a restraining order is necessary to protect the plaintiff from further domestic violence? The Courts must look to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act which provides:

 

The Court shall consider but not be limited to the following facts:

 

(1)        The previous history of domestic violence between the plaintiff and defendant, including threats, harassment and physical abuse;

 

(2) The existence of immediate danger to person or property;

 

(3) The financial circumstances of the plaintiff and defendant;

 

(4) The best interests of the victim and child;

 

(5) In determining custody and parenting time the protection of the victim’s safety; and

 

(6) The existence of a verifiable order of protection from another jurisdiction.

 

N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29 (a); See also Silver v. Silver, 387 N.J. Super. 112 (App.Div. 2006).

 

 


Continue Reading The "Stop, Look, and Listen" Approach for Issuance of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order