Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Post Divorce Challenge To Alimony And Child Support Findings
In Wicker v. Wicker, James Wicker challenged the method in which his alimony and child support obligation was calculated. Specifically, Wicker challenges the court's determination of his monthly expenses and income in arriving at his available funds from which child support for the parties' 3 daughters may be paid. Wicker contended to the NJ Appellate Division that the court did not adequately consider his expenses in commuting from Virginia to New Jersey every other weekend in order to exercise his parenting time and failed to properly include his rental expenses and was inequitable in creating the need for him to remain employed in Washington, D.C. which necessitated the retention of two separate residences. Tara and James Wicker entered into a voluntary and negotiate, but not complete, property settlement agreement (PSA) leaving some remaining issues for the court to decide. From 1996, the date of the parties' marriage, until 2010, the defendant earned under $100,000. In 2010, the defendant secured an income of approximately $190,000 per year leading up to the parties' divorce in 2013. Two of the parties' 3 daughters had significant medical issues and Tara Wicker was the primary caretaker. An employability expert determined that Tara Wicker's long-term absence from the job market and need to care for the children limited her earning capacity to $35,000 per year. Both parties challenged the figures which should be used in determining income. There was also substantial question as to how the defendant arrived at his monthly expenses, including his claim of $9,000 monthly in pendente lite support. The NJ Appellate Division began the analysis with Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394 (1998), which dictates that decisions of the court below will remain undisturbed if supported by the weight of credible evidence and law, and Gnall v. Gnall, 222 N.J. 414 (2015), dictating that decisions of the court below will be disturbed if the court below abused its discretion or the findings are not consistent with the credible evidence and legal principles. The Appellate Division reasoned that N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) empowers judges with the authority to fashion individual solutions best suited to meet the needs of both parties. Randazzo v. Randazzo, 184 N.J. 101 (2005). In affirming the decision of the court below, the court found that the trial judge gave full review to the facts, including the defendant's income and expenses, and the findings were supported by the weight of credible evidence under the guiding principles of law. A divorce will likely have a considerable impact on your life, including determinations about support, custody and parenting that affect where and how you and your family will live. If you are considering divorce or modification of a prior judgment, you should first consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine the likely outcome. For more information about divorce, alimony, child support, relocation with a child and other family law matters visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.