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Decisions1st Dept. clarifies requirements of child support violation finding

September 16, 2019

This is an over-simplification, as this First Department decision regarding multiple child support decisions at both the Magistrate and trial Judge level contained multiple rulings and holdings. It is an informative and interesting ruling that revisits many basic concepts when it comes to child support determinations.

The case is Michael R. v. Amanda R., and the decision was issued September 10, 2019.

Here are the highlights

  1. A party cannot be precluded from testifying (or have their testimony stricken) where they have complied with compulsory financial disclosure in FCA 424-a(a) (here, by producing most recent tax return and financial affidavit and other documentation of income, employment, and receipt of unemployment benefits).
  2. A party seeking discovery after trial has commenced must have the Court’s permission.
  3. In order to move forward to incarceration, the findings of fact which must accompany a finding of willful violation must also be accompanied by a recommendation of commitment, all of which must be issued within 5 days of the conclusion of the willfulness hearing. The failure to specifically recommend commitment constitutes a recommendation against incarceration.
  4. A party filing an Objection to a Magistrate-issued child support determination must include an affidavit of service but where the other party does not argue failure of service, or allege prejudice as a result – the Court should consider the merits of the Objection.
  5. The doctrine of “the law of the case” only applies to legal determinations that were necessarily resolved on the merits in a prior decisions (not denied on procedural grounds) (see 166 AD3d 1).
  6. Upon Objection from Magistrate-issued findings, the Family Court can either make new findings and orders or remand for further proceedings.
  7. Finding a willful violation upon which a person may be incarcerated requires clear and convincing evidence and proof of both (a) the ability to pay and (b) failure to do so. Once there is proof of failure to pay as ordered, that constitutes a prima facie case of willful violation and shifts burden to respondent, but in this case where the Magistrate struck all of respondent’s testimony and entered only a hearsay summary statement submitted by petitioner – even the prior order was not entered in evidence and therefore there was no evidence upon which to base a finding.

About the author:

Founder and Principal Attorney at the Law Office of Bryan Greenberg LLC, Middlesex County, NJ. With an unwavering commitment to guiding individuals through the complex and emotional landscape of divorce and family law matters, Bryan stands as the founding attorney of Law Office of Bryan Greenberg. Backed by years of legal expertise and a deep understanding of Middlesex County's legal landscape, Bryan is dedicated to offering compassionate yet pragmatic solutions to every client's unique situation. Through insightful blog posts, Bryan shares valuable insights, tips, and advice on navigating the challenges of divorce and family law, helping individuals make informed decisions during these critical life transitions. For comprehensive legal guidance and empathetic support, turn to Bryan Greenberg and the team at the Law Office of Bryan Greenberg.

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