On December 19, 2013, the Superior Court of New Jersey – Appellate Division issued a combined opinion in two cases argued by Morgenstern & Rochester partner Andrew Rochester that changed the law for how child support is calculated when one person is paying child support for more than one family.
In those cases, Harte vs. Hand and T.B. vs. Hand, (http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a5430-11a5431-11.pdf), the paying father was under an obligation to pay child support to two children of two prior families under two separate court orders while supporting a third child who was living with him. The lower court had set the child support for each of the two prior families as if the other did not exist, thus requiring the father to pay two high support obligations on top of his obligation to support the child living with him. Basically, the lower court used the same income to pay more than one support order. The lower court did not look at the combined effect of the three obligations. As Andrew later argued before the Appellate Division, the lower court “lost sight of the forest for the trees.”
Morgenstern & Rochester was hired after the lower court issued the support orders and after the lower court had denied a request to correct the orders to file an appeal to the Appellate Division.
After filing lengthy and detailed legal briefs and after a protracted appellate argument, the Appellate Division agreed with Morgenstern & Rochester that the lower court should have considered all of the father’s support obligations simultaneously. They directed that support be recalculated to treat all three of the children equally and fairly. The Appellate Division then adopted Morgenstern & Rochester’s approach that each support calculation for each family must consider the support obligations to the other families. The Appellate Division then set forth a detailed formula for doing so.
This opinion takes on special significance as it is a “Published Opinion.” What this means is that it not only binds the parties to the case, it binds all similarly situated people in the State of New Jersey. Only a small fraction of appellate decisions are deemed important enough to be “published.” This case marks Andrew Rochester’s seventh such published opinion. His other opinions have been in the areas of domestic violence, child support in high income cases, division of pensions in divorce, the effect of bankruptcy on divorce and the disposition of cryo-preserved human embryos in divorce.
If you are paying support for multiple families and want to know if your support is calculated properly, please contact Andrew Rochester, Esquire, at (856)489-6200 to schedule a consultation.