Can a prior judicial determination regarding an ex-spouse’s employment situation preclude the other party from subsequently making an issue out of it when faced with a motion to modify child support? That was the unique issue taken on by the Appellate Division in Simon v. Simon, where the Appellate Division gave preclusive effect to a prior judicial holding regarding the reason why the ex-spouse husband left his job and his resulting subsequent income in deciding a motion to reduce child support.
The parties entered into a Property Settlement Agreement in 2001, wherein the husband agreed to pay child support for their three children at a set amount through the end of 2005, at which point his support obligation would be reevaluated pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines. In 2006, the husband left his employer and obtained a job in Florida because he was allegedly unable to find suitable work in the Princeton, New Jersey area where he lived. As his new job was in Florida, the husband initially lived there with his father, thereby substantially reducing his parenting time with his biological children.
In spring 2006, the wife moved for a child support increase, alleging that the husband provided no justification for his relocation to Florida, that her parenting time and related expenses increased due to the husband’s reduced parenting time attributable to the move, and because such expenses would only increase as her alimony was ending. The husband cross-moved to modify his support obligation, arguing that he involuntarily left his employer and was forced to take a substantial salary reduction in Florida because he was unable to obtain a position in New Jersey at a salary higher than that he received from his Florida employer. Responding to the husband’s claims, the wife asserted that he left his employment voluntarily so that he could commence his retirement in Florida and, as a result, the Court should use his 2004 and 2005 income to determine support. She submitted no evidence, however, of the husband’s ability to earn a higher salary in the metropolitan area. Ultimately, the Court found that the husband’s 2006 income should apply.